31st January

1930 Scotch tape released – make tape sculptures

or take silly photos:

1797 Franz Schubert born, who I think is most famous for his Unfinished Symphony

Nauru Independence Day – see 17th May.

31st December

New Year’s Eve:

Most Spanish-speaking countries celebrate by eating a grape with each of the twelve chimes of a clock’s bell during the midnight countdown, while making a wish with each one.

Mexican families decorate homes and parties in colors that represent wishes for the upcoming year: red encourages an overall improvement of lifestyle and love, yellow encourages blessings of improved employment conditions, green for improved financial circumstances, and white for improved health.

Another tradition is to make a list of all the bad or unhappy events over the past 12 months; before midnight, this list is thrown into a fire, symbolizing the removal of negative energy from the new year.

In Austria, instead of singing Auld Lang Syne at midnight, they dance to Strauss’s Blue Danube.

In Belgium children write beautifully decorated ‘New Year’s Day’ letters that they read out to their families wishing them health and happiness in the coming year and promising not to be as naughty as they were last year.

Danish bake a Kransekrage; Greeks eat a Vasilopita.

Finland and Germany melt lead and drop it into cold water to tell fortunes from the shapes. They eat a tiny marzipan pig for good luck.

In Russia New Year’s Eve is very much like Christmas because the Communists banned Christmas (I know, right?). They remember the best bits of the last year and in the last 12 seconds make secret wishes for the next year.

Spanish and Italians wear red underwear for good luck.

Welsh give each other bread and cheese.

In Brazil New Year’s Eve marks the start of the summer holidays!

In Ecuador men dress as women (not kidding).

In Guatemala adults exchange gifts as the Christ Child only brings presents to children on Christmas day.

In Japan people prepare their homes for the toshigami, the god of the new year, with Kadomatsu (a plantpot arrangement of bamboo and pine) and Shimenawa (rice-stalk ropes to cordon off sacred areas).

Pakistanis often accidentally shoot each other as they like to fire their guns into the air to express joy.

Filipinos wear polka-dot clothes and serve circular fruits to attract money, and throw coins in the air at midnight.

Activities:

Make New Year’s Eve cupcakes (add real sparklers for extra excitement; we tried melted white choc mixed with food colouring as I don’t know what candy coating is; you could also try arranging snipped-up strawberry/bubblegum laces in firework patterns) or make a calendar together out of last year’s photos.

Older kids would probably love molybdomancy (divination with molten lead or pewter) because it’s so bloody dangerous, so that’s up to you.

Make confetti wands,

make pipecleaner glasses,

make silent underwater fireworks,make a wishing tree for New Year’s Resolutions,

make a time capsule (we do timed sports/mental challenges, like how fast can you run around the house, and see if we improve the next year),

make countdown bags,

have a party bath,

turn the year into a banner or nail art or set of finger rings or on a fancy party hat,

and drink fancy mocktails.

Also today:

1853 Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins hosts a dinner party inside a life-size model of an Iguanadon he’d made with Sir Richard Owen

Day of Azeri Solidarity

1759 Guinness started brewing Guinness

1879 Thomas Eddison displays the first incandescent lightbulb

1960 the farthing (1/4 penny) ceases to be legal tender in Britain

1869 Henry Matisse born.

31st October

Hallowe’en

  • Go apple-bobbing
  • Carve a pumpkin or a turnip
  • Tell a ghost story
  • Wear fancy dress
  • If you have a deceased loved one you wish to remember, you could leave out soul cakes or Spanish Huesos de Santo (saints’ bones) and a drink at a place for them on the table when you eat.

Huesos de Santos

  • Do fancy dress trick-or-treating
  • Do divination games, like baking a barmbrack with different symbolic items in it to predict the year ahead for those who eat it.
  • Have a Halloween disco…we like Michael Jackon’s ‘Thriller’; Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’; ‘Ghostbusters Theme’; the Monster Mash; the ‘Time Warp’ from the Rocky Horror Picture Show; Rockwell’s ‘Somebody’s Watching Me’; The Specials’ ‘Ghost Town’; ‘I Put A Spell on You’; ‘Zombie Nation’….etc.
  • We also like to make a haunted house out of Lego and playdough.
  • haunted house
  • Littler ones can carve playdough pumpkins.
  • pumpkin
  • Make slime!
  • Other Hallowe’en food includes: a pumpkin sicking up dip; pretzel and cheese string broomsticks; mini toffee apples; and these banana/satsuma monsters!

In Cornwall it’s called Allantide and children have apples under their pillows to dream of the future or for good luck.

The Scots used to peel an apple in one long strip and throw it over their shoulder to see the first letter of their future love’s name.

Also today:

1941 – Mount Rushmore completed

2000 – Expedition 1 launched to the International Space Station. Before the International Space Station, we had the Mir space station ran by Russia. We’ve had humans continuously orbiting the earth since 1986! You can find out when to see it in orbit here, and you can see its view here. See a quite long video tour of its insides here. This kindergarten has a wonderful space play area.

Germany Day of Reformation – see 3rd October

Nevada (founded 1864): Las Vegas, Hoover Dam

31st August

1895 the Zeppelin invented

1897 Edison invents the movie projector (Kinetoscope)

Malaysia Merdeka Day (independence from UK, 1957)

http://kuching.outer-court.com/kuching-map.html

Malaysia has been inhabited for over 40,000 years. The original settlers were Negritos (Australoid-Melanesians), followed by traders and settlers from India and China, bringing Hinduism and Buddhism.

The Langasuka Kingdom was on the northern peninsula from the 3rd to the 15th century; while the south was the Srivijaya Empire, an important centre for Buddhism. There isn’t much evidence of either reign now, and afterwards the Indonesian Majapahit Empire took over the peninsula and archipelagos.

In the 15th century the Malacca Sultanate was founded, which became an important trade centre and a centre for Islamic learning. In 1511 this was conquered by Portugal. The Dutch took it in 1641.

In 1786 a Malaysian sultan leased Penang to the British East India Company. The Company went on to buy Singapore, and by the 20th century most Malaysian states had a British advisor.

In WWII Japan invaded, and afterwards Britain wanted to unite Malaysia into a crown colony but it was really sick of being occupied. Instead it became the Federation of Malay under British protection. Meanwhile mostly Chinese inhabitants launched a guerilla Communist campaign against the British. This Malayan Emergency lasted until 1960.

In 1969 they had race riots, and afterwards the Prime Minister introduced a New Economic Policy which tried to increase the share of the economy for Malay natives, or bumiputera.

Malaysia is famous for the Petronas Towers:

Also for the Malay tiger, the orangutan, the proboscis monkey and the Rafflesia flower that can grow up to a metre wide:

and the Batu Caves.

 

Kyrgystan Independence Day (from Soviet Union, 1991)

Kyrgyz means 40 – a reference to Manas, a legendary hero who united 40 clans against a Turkic enemy. Kyrgystan’s flag has 40 rays surrounding the wooden top of a yurt. (Kyrgyz is also said to mean ‘red dog’, and ancient clans used to believe they were descended from a Heavenly Red Dog.

Humans have lived in Kyrgystan for at least 200,000 years. It became a Turkic Khaganate before 840 A.D. It became part of the Mongol Empire in 1207. In the 18th century the tribes were taken over by the Chinese Manchu dynasty, and in the early 19th century by an Uzbek Khanate.

In the late 19th century China and Russia agreed that Kyrgyzstan belonged to Russia. In 1936 it became a Socialist Republic of Soviet Russia.

Kyrgyzstan is very ethnically diverse and this led to ethnic tensions. In 1990 they tried to confiscate some Uzbek collective farms to build houses on, as there was a housing crisis, and this led to the Osh Riots.

In August 1991 Kyrgyzstan gained independence. The Soviet-era president was voted president again, but the Tulip Revolution in 2005 made him resign. There were more riots in 2010 against government corruption (a lot of MPs were getting assassinated).

They have a pretty weird sport called Ulak Tartysh, which is a bit like polo except instead of a ball they use a headless goat.

 

Limba Noastra (Moldova National Language Day) – see 27th August

 

Trinidad and Tobago Independence Day (from UK, 1962)

Trinidad was the earliest part of the Carribbean to be settled, 7,000 years ago by Amerindians and Arawaks.

Christopher Colombus arrived on 31 July 1498. Spanish soldiers arrived with armies later to take land. In 1699 the Amerindians revolted against the Roman Catholic missionary priests, and several hundred died.

In the 1700s Trinidad was part of the Vice-Royalty of New Spain, along with Mexico, Central America and some of the Southern US states. However, Spaniards were much outnumbered by Amerindians, so in 1783 the Spanish King said that as long as immigrants swore allegiance to the Spanish crown, anyone could go in. The population increased 15-fold, with French, British, German and Italian migrants and their slaves.

Meanwhile Tobago was colonised by the Dutch and Courlanders (a Latvian duchy).

In 1797 a British ship anchored and somehow the Spanish governor immediately surrendered. Trinidad became a British-owned French-speaking country with Spanish laws!

After the abolition of slavery in 1838, Britain brought in hundreds of thousands of Chinese and Indian labourers. Petrol was discovered in 1857. In 1889, during the Napoleonic wars, Britain took Tobago too.

Trinidad and Tobago gained independence from Britain in 1962.

Trinidad and Tobago are the birthplace of calypso music and the steelpan, maybe the only acoustic instrument invented in the 20th century. Also Soca music

 

Colorado founded (1876), literally named the colour red.

China’s Hungry Ghost month ends (2015): people put out boats with lanterns on them and their ancestors’ names written on them; the ghosts follow the boats floating away down the river.