18th May

Somalia Independence Day:

In antiquity Somalia might have been the fabled Land of Punt, an exporter of valuable goods that traded with ancient Egypt. In the late 19th century Britain and Italy owned parts of ‘Somaliland’.

From 1941 it was run by the British military, then it gained its independence in 1960. From 1969 it became the Somali Democratic Republic (a Communist state) but since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1990 there has been no central government control over the country. It is the world’s major exporter of frankincense and myrrh.

Activities: The Las Gaal Cultural Complex has beautiful cave paintings. Its early civilisation used a writing system that is still undecoded. Play at being a port exporting valuable goods, with haggling, lost ships and pirates. Ancient Somalis were the guys who domesticated the camel. Wrap scarves around your heads, build a portable den, and play at being nomads. Mum – you know you’re the camel. Write in code. Make your own incense.

International Museum Day – so visit a local museum

Victoria Day (2015; Canada celebrates Queen Victoria’s birthday. Still.)

28th July

NPG P1825; Beatrix Potter (Mrs Heelis) by Charles King

1866 Beatrix Potter born

1887 Marcel Duchamp born – do your kids think this is art?

Commemoration of the Great Upheaval (1755-64 Brits kicked out Acadians, French settlers, from Canada)

Ólavsøka Eve (Faroe Islands Parliament opens tomorrow on St Olaf’s Day, when there will be a boat race, Faroese chain dancing, etc.)

Anniversary of the Fall of Fascism: (San Marino, after WWII)

St Marinus founded San Marino when he built a church and monastery on Mount Titano, a secluded Alpine peak, in 301 A.D.

When Italy was being unified, San Marino protected those that were pro-unification, and this meant that Garibaldi let San Marino off the hook when it came to being part of Italy. San Marino made Abraham Lincoln one of its honorary citizens for trying to build a similar republic.

During WWI it remained neutral, which annoyed Italy so it cut its telephone lines. WWII it was neutral again.

In 1923-45 it was ruled by a fascist party; in 1945-57 it had the world’s first democratically elected Communist party.

It has no national debt, and makes a lot of income selling its own coins, its own Euros, and its own stamps to collectors. Their most famous dessert is the Torta de Tre Monti.

Independence Day (Peru from Spain):

Peru was home to the Norte Chico civilisation 3,000 years ago, the oldest civilisation in the Americas and one of only six known ancient civilisations in the world.

In the 15th century the Incas flourished, but in 1532 king Atahualpa was captured by Spanish conquistadors. Its silver resources and native slave labour made it valuable.

After it gained independence in 1821, it managed to find income through exporting guano (bird or bat poo).

Peru was defeated by Chile in the 1879-83 War of the Pacific (also involving Bolivia, over resources and land). Now it has problems with debt, drug-trafficking, inflation, human rights issues, corruption and all that.

Here is a nice site on the Incas for kids, and there are lots of crafts: make Peruvian beads, make a llama felt bag, try some weaving, metal tooling using disposable tinfoil containers.

1st July

1903 first Tour de France – so go out on a family bike trip

1908 SOS becomes international distress call – try it in semaphore
Ghana Republic Day:

Ghana is one of the world’s largest exporters of gold and cocoa. The area was originally inhabited by the Akan people, who traded in the plentiful gold. It became part of the Ashanti Empire, and in the 19th century the Portguese, Dutch, Spanish and British had built forts there. It was known as ‘White Man’s Grave’ though due to all the tropical diseases, which put a lot of the invaders off.

But not the Brits, oh no. We captured it in 1856 and named it the Gold Coast. The Akan fought us a lot until they were defeated in the War of the Golden Stool (best war name ever, I think you’ll agree; it refers to the Ashanti throne). They did not give up, and gained independence in 1957.

Activities: Learn about kente cloth, Afro-jazz, highlife, hiplife, dances such as Adowa, Kpanlogo, Azonto, Klama, and Bamaya

Sir Seretse Khama Day: Sir Seretsa Khama was born in Bechuanaland, Botswana, and became the king of the Bamangwato people from age 4 after his father’s death. He studied at Balliol College, Oxford, and studied to become a barrister at the Inner Temple.

He met and married Ruth Williams. South Africa did not like the king of the country next door being married to a white lady seeing as it had just banned interracial marriages.

To get some peace and quiet, as Britain was in charge of Bechuanaland, they investigated Khama’s ability to be a chief. The report found he would be a good chief, so the Brits hid the report and exiled him anyway. Khama was eventually allowed back once he renounced his throne… then he ran for President. And won.

In 1966 Botswana gained its independence and Khama was a very good President, focusing on economic development through beef, diamonds and copper, and remaining anti-corruption and anti-violence.

Virgin Islands’ Territory Day: The Virgin Islands are short for St Ursula and Her Eleven Thousand Virgins Islands, which was the snappy title Christopher Columbus gave them in 1493 (she’s a martyr who put off marrying her husband by saying she wanted to do a pan-European pilgrimage first. And she took 11,000 virgins with her, as you do.  When they got to Cologne it was in the middle of being invaded, and they were all shot by some Huns. So now there’s the Basilica of St Ursula in Cologne which is decorated with the alleged 11,000 virgin’s bones. Eat that, Laurence Llewellyn Bowen.)

The Islands were first inhabited by the Arawak, Carib and Cermic peoples, all of whom died from European disease, brutal slavery or mass suicide. So instead the Danish plantation owners used slave labour on them to make sugarcane until slavery was abolished in 1848.

During WWI America worried Germany might sneak in and use them as a submarine base and so bought them from Denmark for $25 million. The islands get a lot of earthquakes and tropical cyclones.

Activites: Listen to scratch bands and quelbe music, the cariso folk song, or St Thomas’ bamboula.

Burundi Independence Day:

Burundi was its own kingdom ruled by a Tutsi king until 1899 when it became part of German East Africa. Its king, Mwezi IV Gisabo, opposed this so the Germans helped his son Maconco lead a revolt against him; then Mwezi said ok, I’ll be part of Germany, so the Germans helped him defeat his son. Sorted.

From 1916, Belgium conquered the area and it was joined with Rwanda under Belgium and called Rwanda-Urundi.

On 1 July 1962 Burundi gained independence after Belgium allowed it to run its own democracy.

At that point the Tutsi king became head of state of a government made up of Tutsis and Hutus in equal numbers. In 1965 the Hutu prime minister was assassinated, and next door in Rwanda, a ‘social revolution’ in 1959-61 saw their Hutu government massacre all the Rwandan Tutsis they could find.

This prompted the Tutsi monarchy in Burundi to disallow Hutu members of parliament, so the Hutus tried to carry out a coup, so the Tutsis killed a whole bunch of Hutu politicians and intellectuals.

These back and forth killings and oppression continued until 1972, when bands of Hutus killed all the Tutsi civilians they could find and proclaimed a republic. Then the President and his army killed around 250,000 Hutus.

From then until 2006 the Tutsis and Hutus continued to assassinate each other at every opportunity and HIV has killed off a lot more. Burundi is one of the five poorest countries in the world.

Activities: Watch the Royal Drummers of Burundi perform. Go on a (pretend) gorilla trek – maybe take turns at being a gorilla hiding in the mountains (upstairs).

Canada Day: This is a celebration of the Brits uniting their colonies Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada together to become Canada in 1867. There is a Canada Day held in Trafalgar Square, London.

Activities: Play street hockey. Eat pancakes with maple syrup. Learn about Niagara Falls and moose and beavers and Canadian geese and mounted police officers.

Rwanda Independence Day:

Similar to Burundi, Tutsi kings dominated until the Germans colonised the area in 1884, then Belgium from 1916.

Aside from the Tutsis and Hutus, there are also a group of aboriginal pygmy hunters called the Twa. The Tutsis and the Hutus were more like social castes, with the Tutsis the kings and the Hutus the lower classes, and well-behaved Hutus could become Tutsis.

However, Belgium thought they were different races and introduced identity cards labelling the Tutsis, Hutus, Twas or Naturalised (the latter for Belgian settlers?) and no one could move ranks anymore.

In 1959 the Rwandan Social Revolution occurred, in which the Hutus started killing the Tutsis. And vice versa and back and forth and so on until 1990 (by which point the Twas had been forced out of their forests and had mainly become beggars) when the Rwandan Patriotic Front (Tutsis) invaded and initiated the Rwandan Civil War.

At some point there must have been a ceasefire because the ceasefire ended in 1994, when the President’s plane was shot down and the Rwandan Genocide began –  up to a million Tutsis, Hutus and even Twas were killed by the government.

The RPF fought back and eventually regained control of the country.

Activities: Watch an umushagiriro, or cow dance, or the intore, or dance of heroes. Learn about an imigongo, a cow dung art. Can you make a nyakatsi house for your doll, with mud walls and a grass thatched roof?

Other events today:

  • Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day – see 1st October
  • Somalian Foundation of the Republic – see 18th May
  • Suriname Abolition of Slavery Day – see 25th November
  • Madeira Day (used to be part of Portugal, now independent; this is also celebrated in England)
  • 1858 Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace present papers on evolution

21st June


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).



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.


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

18th May

Somalia Independence Day:

In antiquity Somalia might have been the fabled Land of Punt, an exporter of valuable goods that traded with ancient Egypt. In the late 19th century Britain and Italy owned parts of ‘Somaliland’.

From 1941 it was run by the British military, then it gained its independence in 1960. From 1969 it became the Somali Democratic Republic (a Communist state) but since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1990 there has been no central government control over the country. It is the world’s major exporter of frankincense and myrrh.

Activities: The Las Gaal Cultural Complex has beautiful cave paintings. Its early civilisation used a writing system that is still undecoded. Play at being a port exporting valuable goods, with haggling, lost ships and pirates. Ancient Somalis were the guys who domesticated the camel. Wrap scarves around your heads, build a portable den, and play at being nomads. Mum – you know you’re the camel. Write in code. Make your own incense.

International Museum Day – so visit a local museum

Victoria Day (2015; Canada celebrates Queen Victoria’s birthday. Still.)

3rd March

World Book Day (UK, 2016): So choose your kid’s favourite book and theme the day around it! Dress up as the characters, eat the same food as them and do the same things, or reenact it in miniature with dolls, Lego and Playdo.


Georges Bizet’s Carmen premieres in Paris, 1875


First indoor game of ice hockey played in Canada, 1875



1931 Star-Spangled Banner becomes US national anthem


1847 Alexander Graham Bell born – so let your kid phone some relatives or make a paper cup phone:

or try these sound experiments:


Hinamatsuri – Japanese Festival of Dolls/Girls:

The origins of this festival go back to China which had the custom of making a doll for the transferral of bad luck and impurities from the person, and then putting the doll in a river and forever ridding oneself of them. March 3rd celebrates Girls’ Day in Japan, and from mid to late February families with daughters put out the dolls with the hopes their daughters will grow up healthy and happy.

Most displays consist of just a prince, (Odairi-sama) and a princess (Ohina-sama), but more elaborate displays include the dolls being part of a 5 or 7 tier diplay (hinadan), along with courtiers, candy, rice boiled with red beans (osekihan), white sake (shirozake), peach blossoms, diamond-shaped rice cake (hishimochi), toys, and tiny furniture.

Traditionally many parents or grandparents will begin their first display for their daughter, called hatsu zekku, when she is just a year old, but some families have passed their dolls down from generation to generation with the bride carrying her dolls with her to her new home. Aside from the displays, Japanese used to go view the peach blossoms coming out, drink sake with a blossom in it, and bathe in water with the blossoms. The blossoms represent desirable feminine qualities, including serenity, gentility, and equanimity. (Source: http://www.thejapanfaq.com/celebrations.html)


Guam Discovery Day (2014, first Monday in March):


Guam natives are called Chamorros. They made canoes so fast the Europeans thought they almost flew – so have a boat race.

From 1565-1898 it was a Spanish stopping post between Acapulco (Mexico) and Manila.

In 1898 America helped Cuba gain independence from Spain, and took Guam off them while it was at it – now it’s the westernmost US territory.

In WWII Japan invaded, and used Chamorros people from the Japanese Northern Mariana Islands to interpret and act as middlemen. This has left a lingering resentment between Guam Chamorros and those from the Northern Mariana Islands.

As was usual for countries Japan invaded, the Guam people were treated terribly. The US rescued Guam from the Japanese in 1944, killing over 18,000 Japanese as they would not surrender.

Guam people are US citizens but may not vote in US elections. Try playing batu, where you can only touch the ball with your hips, shoulders, head or elbows;

chonka, whose rules I do not understand; estuleks. Make a belembaotuyan out of a gourd:


Bulgaria National Day:


Bulgaria had the world’s first gold-smelters, making coins, weapons and jewellery out of gold 6,000 years ago, found in the Varna Necropolis Treasure.

Thracians appeared in the Iron Age, who were conquered by Alexander the Great and then by the Romans in 46 A.D. When the Roman Empire fell it became part of Byzantium.

In the 4th century some Bulgarian Goths (East Germanic people) made the world’s first German-language Bible – the Wulfila Bible, while in central Bulgaria the first Christian monastery in Europe was set up.

From the 6th century South Slavs settled the area.

In the 7th century the First Bulgarian Empire broke away from Byzantium, but by 1018 the Byzantines had defeated it.

In 1185 a Second Bulgarian Empire sprung up but by the end of the 14th century it had all split up into little factions, so the Ottoman Turks easily came in and took it all. Under Ottoman rule Christians were heavily taxed.

In the 18th century there was a National Awakening of Bulgaria, leading to a rebellion in which the Ottomans killed 30,000 Bulgarians. This annoyed Britain, Russia, France, Prussia, etc., so much that Russia was allowed to declare war on the Ottomans.

So that’s nice except the Great Powers didn’t actually let Bulgaria have its own country afterwards. Well, they were allowed a little bit of one, but not all of it. So Bulgaria got a bit fighty and tried to take more land in the Serbo-Bulgarian War and a couple of Balkan Wars.

In WWI it fought on Germany’s side and so was defeated. A royal dictator, Boris III took over, and in WWII they again fought on Germany’s side, but refused to take part in the Holocaust (hooray!).

At the end of the war, Bulgaria refused to kick the German troops out, so Russia invaded and a Communist government took over.

By 1946 it was a single-part state led by Georgi Dimitrov, who had thousands of dissidents executed.

After that it got better generally, with a few debt problems, but by 1990 they decided to have democracy like the rest of Europe. A Socialist government was elected, but didn’t do much to increase living standards until 2001. In 2007 Bulgaria joined the EU.

It has two of the oldest trees in the world, Baikushev’s pine

and the Granit oak

as well as brown bears, jackals, Eurasian lynxes and the Eastern imperial eagle.

Since 1990ish, the population has been in decline due to young people emigrating; three-quarters of families don’t have a child under 16 and a third of all households are just one person.

The Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo are pretty cool:

and the fire-dance called the Nestinarstvo.

Bulgaria’s music includes the work of the State Television Female Vocal Choir and Yoan Kukuzel.

Make a nice shopska salad with cozonac for pud.

This Bulgarian folklore calendar shows that you could celebrate Bulgaria all year long!


Other events that might inspire your play today:

15th February

St Louis, Missouri, established 1764 – so make ice cream in cones…

Too cold? Try ice cream cone cakes:

… or make iced tea:


… drink 7 Up or make a 7-Up cake:

… watch the Judy Garland movie Meet Me in St Louis:


1971 Decimal Day (Britain changes its money to the decimal system) – so empty your wallet and play shop with real money. There are online games here.

2001 first draft of the complete human genome published in Nature – this blog has some great DNA activities:

Galileo born 1564 – so build a telescope, or visit your local observatory, or do his Leaning Tower of Pisa experiment and drop a heavy and a light object out of a window to see which lands first (hopefully they land at the same time!)

Charles Lewis Tiffany born 1812, founder of Tiffany’s – so make newspaper jewellery;

1874 Sir Earnest Shackleton, Antarctic explorer, born – so go exploring!

Serbia National Day:

Neolithic humans were settled in Serbia 8,500 years ago.

In the Iron Age the Thracians, Dacians and Illyrians developed there, and the Ancient Greeks expanded into south Serbia in the 4th century B.C.

A Celtic tribe of Scordisi invaded, then the Roman Empire in the 2nd century B.C.

17 Roman emperors were born in Serbia, including Constantine the Great.

When the Roman Empire was divided, Serbia remained in the Byzantine Empire.

In the 8th century the Principality of Serbia was ruled by the Vlastimirović Dynasty and adopted Christianity.

The Byzantine Empire annexed it, then it devolved into a Vojislavljević dynasty in Duklja, and the Vukanović dynasty in Rascia called the Serbian Grand Principality.

These two halves were united in 1142, and Stefan Nemanja assumed the throne.

His son, Rastko created the Serbian Church and wrote the world’s oldest known constitution.

Dušan the Mighty doubled the size of Serbia by taking land from Byzantium and becoming Emperor of Serbs and Greeks.

But by 1455 Serbia was completely conquered by the Ottoman and Hapsburg (Austro-Hungarian) Empires.

In the 18th century the word ‘vampire’ began to spread – the most widely used Serbian word in the world. The picture shows a sign in Serbia directing tourists to a mill haunted by a vampire.

In the Russo-Turkish War Serbia tried to gain independence from the Ottoman Empire, and it did, briefly, before the Great Powers decided it was now owned by Austria-Hungary. Ho-hum.

In 1912 the two Balkan Wars defeated the Ottoman Empire and increased Serbia’s land by 80%.

In 1914 Serbian Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and kicked off WWI.

At the end of the war, King Peter I of Serbia became King of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. His son renamed the country Yugoslavia (meaning ‘southern Slavs’), but the Croats eventually became independent again.

In WWII Yugoslavia tried to stay neutral but the Axis powers (the bad guys) invaded, and 90% of Serbia’s Jews were killed.

Yugoslavia was also having a civil war, royalists against communists; 70,000 Serbs were killed in this inner war alone. The communists won.

In 1989 Slobodan Milošević came to power and Yugoslavia broke up, with only Serbia and Montenegro staying in. But ethnic Serbs living in Bosnia and Croatia were cross about not being part of Yugoslavia anymore, so wars broke out.

Serbia supported the ethnic Serbs until the UN imposed sanctions on them and so Serbia’s economy crashed.

In 1990 they were finally allowed democracy, although Milošević didn’t actually concede defeat in elections until 2000 (after NATO bombed Serbia to stop all the fighting in Kosovo).

When he fell, the UN lifted its sanctions and Milošević was sent off to a war crimes court, but died of a heart attack before any judgement.

In 2006 Montenegro separated from Serbia, and in 2008 Kosovo decided it was independent too. Serbia said nope.

Serbia is currently waiting to join the EU.

Serbia is the world’s second-largest plum exporter (after China) and the plum is its national fruit. Try making plum dumplings.

Listen to Stevan Stojanović Mokranjac’s music, Željko Joksimović or Boban Marković, or watch a kolo dance.

A special part of Serbian culture is the Slava, when Serbians celebrate their family’s patron saint’s day with Slava bread, red wine, and a bowl of boiled wheat.

Other events today that might inspire your play:

  • Afghanistan Liberation Day (Soviet withdrawal, 1989) – see 19th August,
  • John Frum Day (Vanuatu) – see 5th March.
  • Canada’s Flag Day – see 1st July.
  • Susan B. Anthony Day (US) (women’s rights/suffrage activist)