31st October


  • 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


30th October

Anniversary of the Declaration of the Slovak Nation – see 17th July.

Mischief Night (USA; also celebrated 4 November in Yorkshire)

Diwali: (2016) The BBC has the Diwali story for kids here.  Make a rangoli or a paper lantern. Maybe make chai tea or pumpkin halwa. I love this rangoli made of grains and pulses and I love this Diwali nature table, Five days long:

Day 1 the cow and calf are worshiped.

2. birthday of Dhanvantari, the Physician of Gods;

3. the day  the demon Narakasura was killed by Krishna – an incarnation of Vishnu. It signifies the victory of good over evil and light over darkness. Wikipedia: “Hindus wake up before dawn, have a fragrant oil bath and dress in new clothes. They light small lamps all around the house and draw elaborate kolams /rangolis outside their homes. They perform a special puja with offerings to Krishna or Vishnu, as he liberated the world from the demon Narakasura on this day. It is believed that taking a bath before sunrise, when the stars are still visible in the sky is equivalent to taking a bath in the holy Ganges. After the puja, children burst firecrackers heralding the defeat of the demon. As this is a day of rejoicing, many will have very elaborate breakfasts and lunches and meet family and friends.”;

4. Lakshmi Puja: Hindus worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and Ganesh, the God of auspicious beginnings, and then light little clay pots in the streets and homes to welcome prosperity and well-being.

5. Govardhan Puja: Krishna – an incarnation of god Vishnu – defeated Indra and lifted Govardhana hill to save his kinsmen and cattle from rain and floods. Large quantities of food are decorated symbolising the Govardhan hill. Also the victory of Vishnu in his dwarf form Vamana over the demon-king Bali, who was pushed into the patala. Men present gifts to their wives on this day.

6.Yama Dwitiya:  Yama, lord of Death, visited his sister Yami (the river Yamuna). Yami welcomed Yama with an Aarti and they had a feast together. Yama gave a gift to Yami while leaving as a token of his appreciation. Brothers visit their sisters’ place on this day and usually have a meal there, and also give gifts to their sisters

29th October

Turkey Republic Day

Most of modern Turkey lies on the Anatolian Peninsula, one of the oldest permanent settlements in the world. It is thought that all Indo-European languages came from here. The European bit, the Eastern Thrace, is also pretty old, and had Neolithic farming in 6,000 B.C.

The Hattians and the Hurrians lived here until the Hittites came along (I know, it’s great) and founded the Hittite Empire (18th-13th century B.C.!) A load of others invaded, Assyrians, Phrygians, Cimmerians, etc., but when the Greeks came and founded Byzantium in 657 B.C. it started to get interesting.

In the 6th-5th centuries B.C. Turkey was part of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, which fell to Alexander the Great in 334 B.C. The Battle of Troy was fought here, and the architectural site is a big tourist attraction.

Then it became part of the Roman empire, by which time the Anatolian language had been replaced by Greek. In 324, Constantine I chose Byzantium as the Roman capital (which is why it became called Constantinople) and when the Empire was divided, Byzantium became the capital of its eastern half.

In the 11th century, Seljuks (Muslim Turks) invaded and introduced Turkish and Islam. They were then defeated by the Mongols, and one Turkish king who remained, Osman I, founded the dynasty of Ottoman Turks who would rule the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman Empire took over the Byzantine Empire in 1453 when it took Constantinople. Portugal turned out to be the empire’s main rivals for dominance over the Silk Road and the Indian Ocean.

The Empire peaked under Suleiman the Magnificent (look at that turban….)

Its rival now was the Holy Roman Empire, as the Ottomans marched on through the Balkans to Poland-Lithuania. In the 19th century it began to decline; Russia took the Caucasus, and Muslim Turks settled in the Balkans mainly fled back to Constantinople.

The Ottoman Empire entered WWI and was defeated. During the war the Ottomans decided to get rid of the Armenians, and while the Armenian men were mainly fighting for their country abroad, the women, children and elderly were sent on death marches into the Syrian desert without food or water. 1.5 million Armenians were killed and the word ‘genocide’ was coined in 1943 to describe this mass murder. Turkey does not recognise it as genocide yet.

After WWI you’d think everyone would have a break, but actually the Allies occupied Constantinople and insisted (in the Treaty of Sèvres) that the Ottoman Empire hand over all non-Turkish land and divide it between (British-owned) Palestine and (French-owned) Syria.

So then the Turkish War of Independence booted them out in 1922, and we all signed the Treaty of Lausanne, which defined nearly all of Turkey’s borders except with Iraq, but didn’t give the Kurds their own homeland, which is why they’re always kind of in the wrong country.There was also some weird population exchange, wherein Greece sent over 380,000 Muslims in return for 1.1 million Greeks.

Mustafa Kemal, who had led the war of independence, became the first president of the Republic. They managed to stay out of most of WWII, and they got a lot of economic support from America’s Truman Doctrine so they didn’t fall into Russia’s hands afterwards.

Cyprus had a bit of a wobble in 1974, when a military coup installed the dictator Nikos Sampson who wanted union with Greece. Turkey invaded, took the north of Cyprus, and by 1983 this had declared itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which only Turkey recognises. Turkey itself still has problems with some separatist Kurds who keep terrorising people.

Their national sport is oiled wrestling….Try making Turkish delight, or buy some and have a Turkish tea party, with coffee (use Nesquik or dandelion and burdock for the kids?) in a pan or tea in tulip-shaped glasses.

Cambodia Coronation Day – see 9th November

26th October

1685 Domenico Scarlatti born

1863 the Football Association formed in London

1936 Hoover Dam’s first electric generator starts

Austrian National Day

Oesterreich, as Germans call Austria, means Eastern Realm. It was a Celtic country until it was conquered by the Romans, then invaded by Bavarians, Slavs and Avars (Turks).

Charlemagne, King of the Franks and the Holy Roman Empire, conquered the area in 788 A.D. and introduced Christianity. It became a duchy and then was taken over by the Hapsburgs, rulers of Germany, from 1278 to WWI.

Austria occasionally had scuffles with the Ottoman Empire as they both encroached on Hungary. In 1699 Austria actually took over all of Hungary.

In 1815 Austria helped defeat Napoleonic France and emerged as one of the great European powers.

Germany was trying to become a unified country rather than a load of principalities. Austria could be part of it, but it didn’t really want to be – it wanted to be its own empire. Austria helped Prussia fight against Denmark to take Schleswig and Holstein from it, but then as Prussia and Austria couldn’t agree on who should then rule Schleswig and Holstein, Prussia and Austria had a war against each other. Austria lost and then definitely couldn’t be part of Germany.

Franz Joseph I

In 1867 Hungary and Austria agreed to go their separate ways, although they shared the king, Franz Joseph I.

Austria-Hungary included Croats, Czechs, Poles, Rusyns, Serbs, Slovaks, Slovenes, Ukrainians, Italians and Romanians, and they were all allowed to be educated in their own language and use their own languages in official settings, which was nice.

In 1908 Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Ottoman Empire, causing the Bosnian Crisis. In 1914 a Bosnian Serb shot the Archduke of Austria-Hungary and heir to the throne, Franz Ferdinand, and Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, whereupon all the other countries said “Oh no you don’t!” and “Oh yes I will” and WWI started.

(…to be continued)

Famous Austrian composers include Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Strauss.

Musikverein in Austria.

Since 1939, the famous Vienna New Year’s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic is broadcast from its Golden Hall to an audience of one billion in 44 countries.

Every year the Opera Ball sees everyone do a Viennese waltz.

Their folk music is called Schrammelmusik and their folk dances include the Schuhplattler.

It has big castles and palaces like the Schoenbrunn:

or the Belvedere:

Make a Sachertorte or an apple strudel or a Salzburger nockerl.

Nauru Angam Day (Nauruans celebrate having a population of more than 1,500) – see 17th May.

25th October

1881 Pablo Picasso born – we love this book.

Grenada Thanksgiving gives thanks for when their Communist government was overthrown and their Prime Minister murdered, and the US (and Jamaica) came and bombed them. Then they got a democratic government and it’s that they’re being grateful for on this day. Grenada is known as the spice isle, and is especially famous for nutmeg, so maybe try making nutmeg ice-cream or nutmeg pancakes. Here is an alcohol-free Grenada punch for kids! Older kids might like to do a blindfold test and see how many of the spices in the spice cupboard they can recognise.

Also today:

  • Lithuania Constitution Day – see 11th March
  • Day of the Basque Country
  • Taiwan Retrocession Day (Japan handing back to China in 1945) – see 10th October
  • Kazakhstan Republic Day – see 30th August

24th October

United Nations Day, Maldives Hajj Day

Zambia Independence Day: Originally inhabited by Khoisan people, then by Bantus, Zambia became the British colony of Northern Rhodesia (named after Cecil Rhodes who had acquired the mineral rights to the land) in the 18th century. On 24 October 1964 it declared independence and renamed itself Zambia after its Zambezi river. It was then a one-party state until 1991, when the price of its main export, copper, fell drastically and it found itself with one of the highest foreign debts in the world. The average life expectancy is still only 43 years.

It has the largest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls – can you make a waterfall, in the shower or in the garden? Pretend to go on an African safari. We got in a washing basket, took along a plastic camera and made some cardboard binoculars, and hid stuffed and imaginary animals all round the living room. Then we ‘drove’ round the safari and saw elephants, giraffes, hippos, rhinos, crocodiless, buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, warthogs, antelopes, etc.

Wild About Gardens week starts: http://www.wildaboutgardensweek.org.uk/