9th July

1877 inaugural Wimbledon championships – so play tennis


Argentina Independence Day:

Argentina comes from the Latin ‘argentum’, silver, as Europeans thought there were mountains of silver to be found.

Before the Europeans arrived Argentinians were a mix of hunter-gatherers and farmers who made pottery.

Amerigo Vespucci arrived in 1502. The Spanish Empire made it part of the Viceroyalty of Peru, then in 1776 it became the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata (Silver River), with Buenos Aires as its capital.

The 1810 May Revolution replaced the Viceroy with a Junta, a government made of local people. During the revolution some parts of the Viceroyalty broke away and became independent states: Uruguay, upper Peru and Paraguay.

There was then a civil war between the Centralists, who wanted Buenos Aires to rule a united land, and the Federalists who wanted little independent states.

From 1861 everything was settled, and Argentina welcomed in a huge wave of European immigrants that made it the seventh wealthiest country in the world.

In 1930 the democratically elected president was shoved out of the way by José Félix Uriburu’s military coup.

Argentina stayed neutral in WWI and nearly all of WWII, jumping in a month before the end at America’s insistence.

The minister of welfare, Juan Domingo Perón, became president in 1946 and introduced Peronism, where important services were nationalised, he reached 100% employment, improved wages and working conditions and repaid all external debt. Wow.

But then the economy started to suffer from over-expenditure and in 1955 Argentina’s own navy bombed the Plaza de Mayo, injuring 800 people and killing 364, in the first step of a military revolution called the Revolucion Libertadora.

Perón had to go into exile. The revolution leaders banned Peronism, but at the next elections a Peronist successor was elected, Arturo Frondizi, and he reversed everything; there was another military coup, Peronism was banned again; then Arturo Illia was elected and he tried to legalise Peronism, then there was another military coup, and so on and so on.

This last coup was led by Juan Carlos Onganía, who banned all political parties and unions (always a good start), but in 1973 the elections were back, and so was Peronism…. and so was Perón.

Tension was now so high that when he returned from exile, snipers fired on the welcoming crowd to kill the left-wing supporters, injuring 365.

Perón was elected president, and expelled the Montoneros from the party, which were a left-wing guerrilla fighter group.

Perón died the next year and his wife took his place, secretly ordering police and the military to destroy the left-wing radicals. Then she was ousted by the Proceso, which again banned all political parties and unions and made anyone associated with left-wing politics disappear.

Then Leopoldo Galtieri became head of state and decided to invade the Falklands. Bad idea. The UK defeated them in two months. Argentina then brought back democracy (huzza) and veered between neoliberalism and Peronism some more, ad infinitum.

Activities: Dance the tango. The official national sport is pato. Make locro (stew).

Other events today:

  • Australia Constitution Day (see 26 January)
  • Palau Constitution Day – see 1st October
  • South Sudan Independence Day – see 1st January
  • Nunavut (Canadian natives) Day

6th July

Comoros Independence Day:

The first settlers were Africans and Austronesians arriving by boat in the 6th century A.D., followed by all sorts of nationalities and cultures.  In the 9th/10th centuries each island had one central village; in the 11th-15th centuries trade with Madagascar and the Middle East caused a population growth and towns appeared.

In the 16th century Portugal built a fort there; in 1793 Magalysy warriors from Madagscar raided the islands for slaves.

In 1841 France decided it owned the Comoros. On 6 July 1975 Comoros declared itself independent, except for Mayotte which decided to stay French.

Over the next 30 years there were 20 coups, presidents were assassinated, French paratroopers had to be called in, all that stuff. French-trained gendarme Mohammed Bacar seized Anjouan in 2001, staged a vote to confirm his power, tortured thousands that disagreed with him, African Union soldiers had to come in and he fled in a speedboat. How exciting.


Comoros are the world’s largest producer of ylang-ylang – can you make your own perfume from garden flowers? The Comoros are also famous for the prehistoric deep sea fish known as the coelacanthe, thought to be long extinct, but discovered earlier this century in these waters.

Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Jan Hues

(public holiday in Czech Republic: after Jan Huss was burned at the stake for being a Protestant, Hussites rebelled against the Roman Catholics and defeated five papal crusades in 1420-31. 100 years later, 90% of the Czech people were Hussites.

Wife-Carrying Championships

Anniversary of the Coronation of King Mindaugas/Lithuania Statehood Day (6 July 1253, the first Grand Duke of Lithuania and the first and only King of a unified Lithuania)

Malawi Republic Day:

Malawi was first settled by Bantu-speaking hunter-gatherers around the 10th century. After 1600 Malawi began trading with the Portuguese. In the mid-19th century about 20,000 people were enslaved each year by the Arab-Swahili slave trade.

David Livingstone arrived in 1859 and thought the Shire Highlands, south of Lake Malawi, would be nice for Europeans to live, so a bunch of English missionaries came over.

By 1891 Britain had Malawi as a ‘Protectorate’ (protecting it from Portugal), and renamed it Nyasaland. In 1953 we stuck Nyasaland together with Northern and Southern Rhodesia and called it the Central African Federation.

Dr Hastings Banda led nationalist sentiment against this union, and in 1961 was elected president. On 6 July 1964 Malawi became independent with Banda as President-for-Life. He actually didn’t do a terrible job and the economy did well for a landlocked over-populated country with no mineral resources. In 1993 Banda finally agreed to a referendum and since then it’s been a democracy.

Watch the National Dance Troupe.

Marshall Islands Fishermen’s Holiday

So make a fishing game:

The first night of Ivan Kupala Day (Ukraine, Belarus, Russia celebrate St John the Baptist, 24th June, because of their awkward love of the Julian calendar). Young people jump over bonfires; girls float wreaths of flowers lit with candles down rivers to foresee the future of their relationships by the current’s pull; and go into the woods looking for magical fern flowers.

Tell the folktale of St John’s Eve and listen to ‘Night on Bald Mountain’.

First day of San Fermin (Pamplona, Spain), a festival famous for its bull-running, as well as ‘El Struendo’, when everyone gathers in the town centre and makes as much noise as possible, and a parade of gigantes y cabezudos.

7th July

Tanabata: In Japan this is the one day a year that Vega and Altair meet in the Milky Way – can you spot them in the night sky?

Girls wish traditionally for better sewing skills, boys for better handwriting, by writing the wish on a bamboo leaf, or on a piece of coloured paper tied to bamboo. In the 1700s the tradition was to write the wish in dew on a taro leaf. The myth behind the festival is here.

Here’s how to make:

1911 seal hunting banned by US, UK, Japan and Russia

1928 sliced bread sold for first time in Missouri

1990 World Wide Web born

Solomon Islands Independence Day

Papuan-speaking settlers arrived here about 30,000 years ago. A Spanish navigator arrived from Peru in 1568. Britain declared it a protectorate in 1893 (protecting it from the slave trade, which we were against by then).

During WWII planters and traders were evacuated, and actually some of the most brutal battles occurred on the Solomon Islands between Japan and America.

The Solomon Islands gained independence from the UK in 1978, but kept our queen.

Weird fact: about 10% of people in the Solomon Islands have blonde afros, without European genes. Their unofficial song is Walkabout Long Chinatown.

Saba Saba Day (Tanzania; means 7/7 and marks the day the National Union party was formed, but is also called Tanzanian Peasants/Industry Day and is generally celebrated with a trade fair)

Cayman Islands Constitution Day/Remembrance Day: (2014, 1st Mon in July)

These islands were uninhabited until the 17th century (except for the occasional pirate, shipwrecked sailor, refugee from the Spanish Inquisition or deserter from Cromwell’s army). Isaac Bodden was the first recorded permanent resident, born there in 1661, to a dad who was probably a Cromwell deserter.

In 1670 Britain decided it owned the Caymans, and English people came to live there in the 1730s. And we brought slaves over, so that in 1834, when it was abolished, more than half the population were slaves. There’s not really any tax on the island (no income tax), so it has more registered businesses than people.

Ivan Kupala Day:

St John the Baptist Day in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, as in the Julian calendar this would be 23 June; lots of water fights, and there’s the usual jumping over bonfires, this time as couples for good luck in their relationship; looking for fern flowers and magical herbs in the woods; women float wreaths of flowers lit with candles down rivers to try and foretell their futures in romance by the eddies they take; the men try and catch the wreaths to woo the women.

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.

3rd July

1886 Karl Benz patents the Benz Motorwagen, the world’s first car designed to be powered by a motor. His wife, Bertha Benz, took it on a tour of Germany, inventing the first filling station (buying oil from a pharmacy), the first brake pads (asking a shoemaker to nail some leather to the brakes) and generally being a go-getter. The country still celebrates her journey every two years on the Bertha Benz Memorial Route.


1996: the Stone of Scone returned to Scotland.


1890 Idaho State founded. It’s famous for its potatoes. I’m not kidding.


Belarus Independence Day

Belorussia, White Russia, is a term from when the Tsar was ‘Tsar of All Russia’, the Great Russia (where Russians were native), the Little Russia (now Ukraine) and the White Russia (Belarus). Perhaps they had whiter skin or wore white clothes, it’s not sure. This got a bit confusing during the Russian Revolution when the White Russians were also the military force trying to crush the communist Reds.

Belarus is 40% forest. Its national dish is draniki – potato pancakes.

2nd July

World UFO Day: can you build a recycled UFO?

1897 Marconi patents radio in London – so make a radio show.

2002 Steve Fossett completes a nonstop round-the-world flight in a hot-air balloon

Bahia (Brazil) Independence Day (from Portugal in 1822, a year later than Brazil). A famous Bahia tradition is wearing wish bracelets.

Curaçao Flag Day: Originally inhabited by Arawak (Carribean) peoples, Spain enslaved the whole lot from 1499. Then the Dutch came and used it as a trade centre and for salt mining.

Sephardic (Spanish) Jews emigrated here and impacted local culture. Slavery made the island a rich place for the colonialists, but Holland banned slavery in 1856.

Oil was found in 1914 and helped a lot. In 1954 Curaçao gained self-government under the Netherlands. It wasn’t until 1984 that they decided on a flag and a national anthem. From January 2014 the Lynx rocketplane will do space tourism.

Make ‘curaçao’ cocktails using blue food colouring.

Hemis Festival: Celebrating the birth of Guru Padmasambhava, who founded Tantric Buddhism in Tibet. Make a mask.