30th June

1859 Charles Blondin crosses Niagara Falls on a tightrope

1937 999 introduced in London as emergency number – do your kids know what to do?

Congo Independence Day:

The first wave of people into Congo was around 2,000 B.C. These Bantu-speaking villagers knew the techniques of iron-smelting and moved the indigenous Pygmies out – there are now up to 600,000 Pygmies living in the Congo rainforest.

The villagers also exploited the natural ores of the land and became great exporters of metals and ivory, and became the Kingdom of Luba. The only downside so far was that Arabs kept nipping in for a slave raid.

In 1885, somehow Berlin decided King Leopold II of Belgium owned the Congo, and he set about building a railway there and began rubber production, cutting off the limbs of any natives who weren’t joining in the rubber production with enough enthusiasm. During this period of disease and brutality, the population of the Congo was reduced by as much as a half.

Due to international protest (Great Britain especially noisy), the Belgian parliament gently prised the Congo from the king’s grip and some economic and social progress was made, even though the colonialists looked down on the indigenous people.

On 30 June 1960 Congo gained independence in its own free elections and most of the colonialists fled.

The Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, then sacked the President Joseph Kasavabu, and the army’s chief of staff somehow managed to get money from the US and Belgium to neutralise Lumumba and Kasavabu’s fighing, in case they went all Communist.

In 1961, the US, Belgium and Katangan forces kidnapped and executed Lumumba, and the UN had to come in two years later to sort out all the confusion.

From 1971 the Congo was actually called Zaire under the rule of Mobotu Sese Soku, whom the US loved because he was anti-Communist, even though he declared a one-party state. He occasionally held elections in which he was the only candidate, and embezzled all the money he could get his hands on. Nice bloke.

He also, and this is my favourite bit, renamed himself Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga – “the all powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, shall go from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake”. (Before that he was called Joseph.)

In 1996, Rwandan and Ugandan armies sneaked over to conquer Zaire; some Zaireans joined in out of protest against Mobutu.

In 1997 Mobotu fled in the face of increasing opposition (and having lost US support now that Communism isn’t so scary) and the leader of that mixed army, Kabila, declared himself President of the Congo (not Zaire anymore).

He then asked the Rwandan and Ugandan soldiers to head home, thanks very much. Rwanda and Uganda then formed separate rebel armies and came back fighting almost immediately, and Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia got involved on Kabila’s side.

Kabila’s son took over after he was assassinated in 2001, and he asked for peace talks and UN peacekeepers were called in. Kabila jr agreed to share power with the Rwandan and Ugandan rebel army leaders and in 2006 the Congo finally got around to some multi-party elections.

The results led to fighting, the UN sorted it out, they had a re-vote, Kabila won. In general, the fighting has carried on and the whole war has so far killed 5.4 million people.

Activities: Listen to soukous music. Look at the bonobo (but not too much),

the white rhino, the mountain gorilla and the okapi (a zebra-giraffe thing).

They also have an equivalent to the Loch Ness monster: the Mokèlé-mbèmbé.

Other events today:

  • Phillippine-Spanish Friendship Day
  • Sudan Revolution Day – see 1st January

29th June

Tahiti Anniversary of Internal Autonomy:

Tahiti is the economic, cultural and political centre of French Polynesia. Its first settlers came from Fiji. After European contact in the 1700s, their paradise was disrupted by guns, prostitution, disease and alcohol, almost wiping out the population.

In 1880 the Tahitian king had to cede his sovereignty to France. In 1946 Tahitians were finally granted French citizenship and in 1966-96 France tested its nuclear bombs out on its nearby coral reefs. Nice. Now France really only helps financially and with military needs; Tahiti has its own government, etc.

Activities: Look at Gauguin’s work from Tahiti. Try pearl-diving (throw an oyster-style shell in the bath and ‘dive’ for it) as Tahiti exports black pearls. Make monoi out of gardenia flowers and coconut oil and use as a conditioner or moisturiser. Make tropical cocktails with little umbrellas. Make the Thunderbirds island!

Feast of St Peter and St Paul – stories here.

Seychelles Independence Day: See 18 June.

25th June

1910 Stravinsky’s ‘The Firebird’ ballet premiers

1852 Gaudi born

Slovenia Statehood Day (see 8 February);

Croatian National Day: Croatia’s famous for cravats (named after the Croatian word for Croatia),

Dalmatians, and Pag sheep’s cheese.

You could also bake ‘Licitar’ hearts and decorate as gifts;

http://www.licitar.hr/en/about-licitars-1

try a Moreska sword dance (using wooden spoons for swords, perhaps).

Mozambique Independence Day: Mozambique led a guerilla war against Portuguese rule in 1964. Ten years later, they finally managed to take control and in 1975 any remaining Portuguese were ordered to leave and take no more than 20kg of luggage. Then they wasted another 20-odd years with a civil war.

Despite great natural resources, Mozambique has the lowest GDP per capita and is one of the worst countries for human development or equality. Mozambique people make handmade instruments out of wood or animal bone, like drums or horns. They also make elaborate masks for dancing. What about stilt-walking too, like the men of Makua? Mozambique was the greatest producer of cashew nuts.

Tunisia Republic Day: At the beginning of recorded history, Tunisia was occupied by Berber tribes, and from the 10th century B.C. Phoenicians and Cypriots settled there and founded the famous city of Carthage (featuring in Virgil’s Aenid, in which the heartbroken Queen Dido builds herself a funeral pyre where she throws herself upon the sword of her lover, Aeneas, when he remembers he’s supposed to be nipping out to found Rome. Original drama queen.)

Following the Battle of Carthage in 149 B.C., Romans controlled Tunisia and it grew into a great exporter of grains, olive oil and ceramics.

At the beginning of the 8th century, Muslim Arabs conquered it and founded their city of Kairouan, which has the world’s oldest standing minaret, the Great Mosque of Kairoan, the most ancient and prestigious sanctuary in the Muslim West.

https://peters365photos.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/kairouan-tunisia/

However, at the turn of the first millennium these rulers abandoned Tunisia for Cairo, and a warlike Arab Bedouin tribe called the Banu Hilal invaded and laid waste to the land, reducing it  to arid desert. In the late 16th century the country became a pirate stronghold.

Tunisia was then controlled by Spain and then the Ottoman Empire (Turks), but in 1869 it declared itself bankrupt. In 1881 France invaded and it became a French protectorate.

During WWII the German/Italian armies were defeated here, though with many US losses.

Tunisia became independent in 1956. Despite being officially a democracy (aren’t they always?), it was pretty much an authoritarian dictatorship and in 2010 Tunisia was the first to rebel in the Arab Spring. They are now ruled by a human rights activist.

Activities: Be a 16th-century Barbary pirate. Weave (Tunisians famous for their beautiful woven rugs). Listen to some Malouf music.

Virginia state founded (1788): Jamestown was the first English settlement; Virginia is named after Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen. The Franklin & Armfield Slave Market was here. The Pentagon. A flag with a boob out.

23rd June

1868 typewriter patented – so practise typing with these games.

Võidupüha: Estonia’s Victory Day. They had to fight the Germans and Communist Russia in 1918-20 to keep their independence. Estonia’s famous for its Singing Revolution in the 1980s, with a kind of nighttime flashmob of singing to gain independence from Russia. Estonia is the least religious country in the world after China: only 16% of people believe in a god. Their sport, kiiking, is kind of entertaining. Can you try it on the swings at the local playground?

Luxembourg National Day:

Luxembourg is the world’s only remaining sovereign grand duchy (i.e., it is ruled by a grand duke). The King of the Netherlands used to be the Grand Duke of Luxembourg but in 1890 the throne passed to the king’s daughter while the duchy passed to his male heir (as per the then male heir rules of the duchy) elsewhere.

Its official languages are German, French and Luxembourgish (great word).

Luxembourg Castle is very pretty and old.

http://www.castle-vianden.lu/english/

Occupied by the French (after the Celts, Romans, Bourbons, Habsburgs and Hohenzollerns) until the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, both Prussia and the Netherlands wanted to own Luxembourg. The Belgian Revolution in the 1830s took the west (French-speaking) half of Luxembourg but afterwards Luxembourg became independent.

In WWI Germany invaded and occupied Luxembourg but didn’t interfere too much; however in WWII, as a strategic route to France, Luxembourg was treated as a Germanic territory and its government had to move to London!

Activity: Celebrate Luxembourg’s famous export, RTL (Radio/Television Luxembourg) by making a radio or television show. Radio Luxembourg is so famous because it broadcasts in French, German, Flemish and English and also until the 1980s there were no private radio stations in France so it offered an alternative media view.

22nd June

Anti-Fascist Resistance Day: Celebrated in Croatia with barbeque and fireworks. Croatia was a German puppet state during WWII under a government called the Usta E. The resistance was headed by a Communist leader called Tito, who later appointed himself President for life. See 25th June for more ideas.

El Salvador Teachers Day: On this day, teachers are given awards recognising their services to education, big parties are held in their honour, and students send them love cards to show their appreciation.

21st June

Solstice

Science: It’s going to be the usual demonstration with the Earth as a tennis ball or marble and the Sun as a football or gym ball. You know the drill.  The sun is at its most northern point from the equator. The most northern parts of the earth have their longest day – in the Arctic the sun never sets; the southernmost parts have their longest night – in the Antarctic the sun never appears.

Activities: Build a Stonehenge (or just visit it, if you’re near).

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-2595920/From-Niagara-Falls-Great-Barrier-Reef-worlds-famous-treasures-built-LEGO-new-Brick-Wonders-book.html

http://www.firstpalette.com/Craft_themes/People/miniaturestonehenge/miniaturestonehenge.html

Native Americans put teepees in a circle to symbolise the cosmos on the solstice – that might be fun too if you have a lot of spare bedsheets.

In Northern Europe, the Solstice is a big deal and a good excuse for a party.

  • Bonfires (and jumping over bonfires),
  • visiting and decorating wishing wells,
  • gathering herbs because they are especially potent.
  • Austria has a spectacular procession of ships;
  • Brazil’s Festa Junina involves a lot of dancing quadrilles;
  • Sweden gets out a maypole (in June?);
  • in medieval times the French celebrated with a cat-burning ritual;
  • in Jersey they banged a brass pan to ward off evil, and we all know a tiny bairn who would enjoy doing that.
  • Hunting for magic fern blossom;
  • washing the face with morning dew to be beautiful all year;
  • making flower wreaths and throwing them on lakes;
  • balancing an egg at the exact moment of the solstice … oh, there are lots more ideas here and here.

 

Greenland National Day

Greenland was so named by Erik the Red, a Norwegian exiled from Iceland, who hoped the name would attract other settlers and he wouldn’t be so lonely. Actual Greenlanders call their country Kalaallit Nunaat, meaning land of the Kalaallit people.

At first Greenland was inhabited by stone-age Eskimos in 2,500 B.C.

http://365daysoflearning.weebly.com/on-the-go/day-92-gt-erik-the-red

In 986 Erik the Red arrived with other settlers. These Norwegians accepted Danish rule when Norway and Denmark formed the Kalmar Union. It was a hard place to live – very cold!

From 1300 Thule people arrived from Alaska, bring dog sleds and whale harpoons.

Even though by the 18th century all the Norse people had long since died and actually Europe hadn’t had any contact with Greenland for centuries, when it was rediscovered Denmark was like, “IT’S STILL OURS BY THE WAY.”

In WWII Denmark was taken over by Nazi Germany, and America occupied Greenland to protect it. In the 1950s America built a big army base there as part of the Cold War defence.

In 2009 Greenland gained self-rule, while Denmark controls its foreign affairs and defence. Denmark also pays them 3.2 billion kroner a year for welfare and investment.

Greenland’s Inuit people catch around 175 whales a year. It has polar bears, Arctic foxes and hares, and seals. There are only about 56,000 humans, and as Greenland is the world’s biggest island it is also the least densely populated country in the world.

Greenland’s traditional sport is Arctic Sports, a kind of wrestling; they also love handball.

Schoelcher Day:

The French West Indies/Antilles honour the French abolitionist Victor Schoelcher’s achievements in helping end slavery with a sailboat race, fireworks, music, etc.

Togo Day of the Martyrs: Togo gained independence from France in 1960.  They have mainly animistic beliefs, carve beautiful statuettes (Google Ewe or ibeji) and make beautiful batiks, which could be fun to do.

Bolivian New Year! and We Tripantu (Mapuche New Year, Chile)

New Hampshire founded 1788

Go Skateboarding Day

International Surfing Day

National Aboriginal Day (Canada celebrates the Inuit and Métis and First Nations)

World Music Day