5th July

Algerian Independence Day (see 19th June)

Day of the Apostles St Cyril and St Methodist (invented the Glagolitic and Cyrillic alphabets for translating the Bible into Slav languages)

Venezuela Independence Day: Venezuela is named after Venice, as the stilted houses reminded Amerigo Vespucci of Venice. ‘-uela’ is used in Spanish to mean ‘little’, so it means Little Venice. There may have been 1 million people living in Venezuela before the Spanish arrived, using a mix of slash-and-burn agriculture and settlement. When Christopher Columbus sailed past in 1498, he thought he must have literally found Paradise, because of the lovely temperature and amount of fresh water flowing out to sea; Venezuela is now sometimes called ‘Land of Grace’. Spain moved in from 1522. Venezuelans tried to resist but failed until Francisco de Miranda, a Venezuelan-American who had fought in America’s War of Independence and the French Revolution, declared independence on 5 July 1811.

Thus began the Venezuelan War of Independence against the Spanish, but an earthquake the next year devastated Caracas, and also not all Venezuelans were on board: some were royalists and the lower classes whose export of cocoa would be stronger if the Spanish customers stayed as allies.

In 1821 Simon Bolivar, along with José Antonio Páez and Antonio José de Sucre, won the Battle of Carabobo; this completed Venezuela’s independence and Bolivar went on to lead other countries to independence and founded Gran Colombia, of which he made Venezuela a part.

Páez led a rebellion against this and became properly-independent Venezuela’s first president. Perhaps a third of all people died in these wars, now only 800,000.

In 1859 they had another civil war, the Federal War, in which hundreds of thousands died again. In 1899 Cipriano Castro (no relation to Fidel) marched an army and took over Venezuela. He refused to pay Venezuela’s foreign debts and caused a crisis with Britain, Germany and Italy.

In 1908, while causing another kerfuffle with the Netherlands, he nipped out for medical treatment in Germany and Juan Vicente Gómez pinched his seat.

They found loads of oil in Lake Maracaibo during WWI which transformed the economy and by 1935 Venezuelans were the richest in Latin America.

In 1941 political parties were legalised and they very nearly had a democracy until 1948 when there was another military junta, led by Marcos Pérez Jiménez. He led for 10 years then they tried democracy again.

It went well, but in 1983 oil prices dropped and Venezuela suffered. Rioting killed hundreds. Hugo Chavez led a failed coup, and in 1998 he was actually elected President.

Venezuela was crazy, doing things like a 2-month national strike so no one could get oil or power. Chavez died in 2013 and is still kind of regarded as a saint.

Now Nicolas Maduro is President, and there are a lot of demonstrations against high crime and inflation. Salto Angel is the tallest waterfall in the world.

5th June

 

World Environment Day: Every year there’s a different theme. Last year there was an art competition to make your local landscape or seascape with recycled materials. Find out more here.

Seychelles Liberation Day (from UK, 1976; see 18 June)

President’s Day (Equatorial Guinea – see 12th October)

Denmark Constitution Day

Denmark has been inhabited since about 12,500 B.C. They made lurs (bronze horns) in the Bronze Age and traded with the Romans in their Celtic era.

In the 8th-10th centuries the Danish, Swedes and Norwegians were known as the Vikings. (For Viking activities, see 17th May). They colonised a lot of the western world, including Normandy in France, England, Canada and Iceland. There are more Anglo-Saxon coins in Denmark than in England.

The Danes were united in 965 A.D. by Harald Bluetooth, who converted to Christianity.

In 1016 the prince of Denmark, King Cnut, invaded England and became our king, and later became king of England, Denmark and Norway.

In 1397 Denmark became the Kalmar union with Norway and Sweden, although as Margaret I treated Denmark as the best country, Sweden kept breaking away and being reconquered, until Sweden finally broke away in 1523.

In the 1530s they had a civil war (called the Count’s Feud), because some people wanted to be Protestants. The Protestants won and Denmark became Lutheran.

Then Denmark kept trying to invade Sweden and vice versa, trying to get colonies but failing, trying to invade Germany in the 30 Years’ War but failing. They tried to stay out of the Napoleonic Wars but that just annoyed Britain and we attacked them, setting fire to Copenhagen and attacking all their boats until they went backrupt and had to dissolve their union with Norway. They still kept Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

In 1849 Denmark decided to become a constitutional monarchy.

After WWI, during which Denmark remained neutral, the Versailles treaty offered them Schleswig-Holstein back, but Denmark asked the inhabitants to vote on it (how civilised), and so was given only Northern Schleswig. This is celebrated on the 15th June on Valdemarsdag.

In WWII they signed a non-aggression pact with the Nazis but they invaded anyway. Of course. The Danes fought for two hours before surrendering. Iceland severed ties with Denmark during WWI and became independent.

After WWII Denmark became part of the EU, but Greenland and the Faroe Islands didn’t because EU countries have their fishing quotas limited.

Celebrate Denmark by playing with Lego (it’s Danish)! Read Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales (The Ugly Ducking, The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen). It has the best restaurant in the world.

5th May

Cinqo de Mayo: or the Day of the Battle of Puebla.

Mexico had just finished fighting America for independence, in which it lost Texas, and a couple of civil wars, and decided not to pay any foreign debt for two years until its economy had recovered.

Britain and Spain popped over but realised the decision was for the best; Napoleon III, however, decided to take the opportunity to build a Latin Empire.

But, even though France was then the world’s top army, Mexico crushed it. This is what’s celebrated on this day.

A year later the French came back and occupied Mexico for three years, but once the US was done with its own civil war, it helped Mexico push them out.

Here are some tips on how to celebrate it.

1865 the first train robbery in the US – so go on a train ride

Kyrgryzstan Constitution Day

Also today:

  • Japan/Korea Children’s Day (in Japan parents put up koinobori flags and serve mochi rice cakes)
  • S. Korea Buddha’s Birthday
  • Europe Day
  • Feast of Al-Khadr/St George (Pakistan)
  • Indian Arrival Day (Guyana – the Indians were brought to work on the sugar plantations by the British in 1838)
  • Netherlands/Denmark Liberation Day (from Nazi Germany)
  • Lusophone Culture Day (Portuguese-speaking)
  • Ethiopia Patriots’ Victory Day (against Italy, 1936-41)
  • Senior Citizens’ Day (Palau)

5th March

1853 Howard Pyle born, who wrote and illustrated The Adventures of Robin Hood and Tales of King Arthur

St Piran’s Day, national day of Cornwall – so make fudge:

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a cream tea

or a Cornish pastie.

Try a Furry dance, listen to a Cornish piper or try the Cornish language.

 

Vanuatu Custom Chief’s Day:

vanuatu-from-australia-map

My favourite fact about Vanuatu, which is really a group of islands or archipelago, is that there are people living on Tanna who revere Prince Philip as a god. Most villages have male and female sections, and if you’re a girl on your period, you are expected to stay in a zone reserved for menstruating women. It was Spanish from 1605, then France and the UK shared it from the 1880s until its independence in 1980.

5th February

Weatherpersons’ Day (USA) – so set up a weather station.

Runeberg’s Day

– so make a Runeberg tart and listen to the Finnish national anthem, which he wrote.

 

Sapporo Snow Festival

So make your own ice sculptures:

… or make snow dough:

or this recipe:

Burundi Unity Day – see 1st July

San Marino’s Anniversary of the Liberation of the Republic from the Alberoni Occupation and St Agatha’s Day – see 28th July

Mexico Constitution Day – see 16th September

Pakistan Kashmir Day (protests against India’s rule of Kashmir) – see 14th August

5th January

1896 Wilhelm Roentgen discovers the X-ray, so learn about the skeleton. Playful Learning has a fantastic lesson idea here.

Chinese Ice Festival: make an ice lantern if it is snowy where you are; if it’s rainy, maybe try making a sorbet or a baked Alaska cake.

National Bird Day– get ready to take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch; below are some ideas on how to entice birds to your garden.

Twelfth Night

From now until Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras it’s Carnival; many Catholic countries have King Cake parties throughout the season.

5th December

St Nicholas Eve: make Stutenkerls and put your shoes out for St Nicholas (but watch out for Krampus).

California gold rush 1848 – try a gold panning game at home;

Thailand National Day:

Thailand used to be called Siam. From the 1st to the 13th centuries it was part of the Khmer Empire (Cambodia). The first Thai kingdom was the Sukhothai kingdom from 1238; this was overtaken by the Ayutthaya kingdom, which became the most wealthy city in the East because it was so welcoming to foreign traders, especially the French merchants from Louis XIV.

In 1765 a Burmese army popped in to destroy everything, like the libraries and art treasures and historical archives, so that’s a shame.

After that King Rama I the Great established the Thai capital at Bangkok and rebuilt the economy by turning almost a third of his own people into slaves.

In the 19th century Thailand managed to resist France and Britain, although Britain took its peninsula which is now part of Malaysia.

During World War II Japan invaded to get to the Malay frontier, so Thailand let them through after Japan promised to help them get their land back from Britain and France.

Thailand then declared war on the US and the UK (brave) but kept up a resistance movement against Japan. Japan made about 240,000 Asian labourers and Allied prisoners of war build a bridge from Thailand to Burma, during which 115,000 of them died from atrocious working conditions, so it is now called the Death Railway.

After the war and during the Cold War, Thailand was on America’s side.

Thailand’s national religion is Buddhism, and their date is 543 years ahead of ours because they count from Buddha’s era rather than Jesus’. In Wat Panang Choen is the world’s biggest solid gold statue, a 19-metre high Buddha.

Try making a 2D Buddha out of gold leaf or tinfoil. Popular sports in Thailand include Muay Thai boxing and Takraw. Try some Thai food.

Haiti and Dominican Republic Discovery Day