28th December

The Lumiere brothers show the first cinema film in 1895 – make your own film with dolls for actors or try making these optical illusions.

Australia Proclamation Day – on this day in 1836 Southern Australia was declared a British province. For more see 26th January.

The fourth day of Christmas

Iowa founded (1846)


21st December

Forefathers DayMayflower lands in Plymouth, Massachusetts, 1620

1872-6 HMS Challenger expedition sets off from Portsmouth, discovering many new things about the ocean

Winter Solstice (2017, the shortest day of the year – this is the first day of winter.

São Tomé Day

São Tomé and Príncipe were uninhabited when they were discovered by the Portuguese around 1470.


São Tomé is named after St Thomas (today is St Thomas’s Day) and Principe was originally called Santo Antão (after St Antony) but in 1502 it changed its name to Ilha do Príncipe after the Portuguese prince to whom sugar taxes were paid.

The Portuguese imported slaves to grow the sugar and by the mid-16th century it was the world’s main exporter of sugar. But then other countries’ colonies exported even more sugar, and the slaves became difficult to manage.

They introduced coffee and cocoa crops, and abolished slavery in 1876, but while the workers were paid they were still kept against their will in terrible working conditions, so it didn’t change much.

In 1953 the Portuguese landowners turned violent against the Creoles in the Batepá massacre. São Tomé and Príncipe achieved independence on 12 July 1975. In 1991 they had free democratic elections. They had one military coup for a week in July 2003 but otherwise have remained one of Africa’s most stable and democratic countries.

Pancha Ganapati

Pancha Ganapati is a 5-day festival in honour of Ganesh (21st: family build and decorate shrine with Ganesh dressed in golden yellow, then work on family relationships; 22nd Ganesh dressed in royal blue and Hindus repair their relationships with neighbours and friends; 23rd, ruby red, for colleagues and customers; 24th emerald green, the family shares their artistic talents with each other; 25th family reflect on the love and harmony created thanks to Ganesh. Gifts put on the shrine every day til now are opened.)

Yalda: (Iran, 2016) an evening of staying in with family to avoid evil. The next day is joyous.


18th December

1892 the Nutcracker premiers

1793 HMS Lutine sinks full of gold

1912 Piltdown Man announced

Niger Republic Day

Qatar National Day

UN Arabic Language Day;

New Jersey founded 1787: had the world’s first organised baseball game, drive-in movie, the first movie (by Edison), submarine, condensed soup, robots to replace workers, salt taffee, the first town to be lighted by electricity.

17th December

Bhutan National Day

First performance of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony 1865

First day of Saturnalia.

Anniversary of the first powered flight by the Wright brothers 1903 (and Wright Brothers Day in the US)

15th December

1970 Soviet Venera lands on Venus

Alderney Homecoming [of WII evacuees] Day

Netherlands Kingdom Day


The Netherlands’ unofficial name is Holland, although that’s actually only the name of two of its counties, but those counties were so famous in the 17th century that their name is more widely known. The people are the Dutch. It’s ridiculous.

250,000 years ago Neanderthals arrived in the higher-up parts of the Netherlands. The oldest canoe ever found came from Mesolithic tribes here in 8,000 A.D.

Around 650 B.C. Germanic tribes arrived from the North. Some of these would become early Saxons, Franks and Celts.

Part of the area was conquered by Julius Caesar in the Gallic Wars around 57 B.C. After the Romans left, the southern Netherlands became the Frankish Kingdom ruled by Clovis I. The people spoke Old Frankish, which eventually became Dutch, while the language of the Franks living to the north became French.


Saxons, Angles, Jutes and Frisii moved into land that was previously abandoned. Some moved into England and became the Anglo-Saxons. About 500,00 people still speak Frisian in this area – it’s the closest language to English…. particularly the English spoken in Great Yarmouth (not even a joke!).

The Frankish Carolingian (i.e., ruled by Charles the Great and his increasingly not-as-good heirs, up to Charles the Fat) Empire ruled most of Western Europe, and when it split the Netherlands was in Middle Francia. This was quite weak and was always being reshaped or being invaded by Vikings.

Around 1100 tradesmen and farmers began draining Holland’s swampy marshes and turned it into a place of power. In the 15th century Amsterdam became the main trading place for grain in Europe.

Charles V united the Netherlands, Belgium and bits of France and Germany into his land along with the whole of Spain. This led to the Eighty Years’ War as they all tried to get their independence again. In 1579 in the Union of Utrecht the northern half of the Netherlands swore to join together against France. Elizabeth I sent a British army to help.

After regaining their independence they formed a confederation of states, and in the 17th century the Dutch Empire became one of the world’s major powers. They settled New York (which they called New Amsterdam) in 1614.

The Netherlands became the first capitalist country in the world, with the first full-time stock exchange, inventing insurance and retirement funds and the world’s first economic bubble when everyone went mad for tulips, and the world’s first ‘bear raider’, a trader who made everyone lower their prices by dumping his own stock, then buying everyone else’s at the new discount.

After France’s revolution, the Netherlands had its own and declared itself the Batavian Republic – its ruler, William V of Orange, fled to England.

(to be continued ….)

It’s famous for tulips, windmills, clogs, Delft Blue pottery, canals, the Dutch Masters, bicycles and the ice-skating tour. Find out more here.

Zamenhof Day (creator of Esperanto)

Bonaire Kingdom Day

Christmas Jumper Day (2017, Save the Children UK)