17th July

1717 Handel’s Water Music premiers, while George I sails on a boat with 50 musicians down river Thames

1955 Disneyland (California) opens

Slovakia Independence Day:

Humans have lived in Slovakia since at least 270,000 B.C.

Before the Slavic tribes arrived in the 5th century, Rome had outposts here and the Huns launched invasions into Western Europe from here. The Slavs revolted against the Huns, led by Samo.

Mojmir I

In 833 Samo’s empire combined with the Moravian Empire, which was created by Mojmir I uniting the Slavic tribes north of the Danube a couple of years earlier.

Saints Cyril and Methodius arrived in 863, inventing the earliest Slav alphabet, a predecessor of Cyrillic, so they could spread Christian texs.

King Ratislav gave the Principality of Nitra to his nephew Svatopluk, but he allied with the Franks and overthrew his uncle by way of thanks. He expanded the Moravian Empire to include most of Hungary, lower Austria, Silesia, Bohemia, Lusatia, southern Poland and northern Serbia.

His two sons became kings of Moravia and Nitra, but they quarreled and Moravia lost a lot of its territory while they were mucking about. From the 10th century, Hungary owned Slovakia.

Ferdinand I

Pressburg became Hungary’s capital in 1536, but the Ottoman wars and insurrections against the Hapsburg monarchy (Archduke Ferdinand the original, the First, was then king of Hungary and Bohemia; but he was governed by the Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria).

Eventually, in the late 17th century, the Turks gave up, and Hungary moved the capital to Buda in 1848.

At this point there were serious uprisings against the Hapsburg monarchy, when Slovakia took Austria’s side in the hope that they would grant them independence from Hungary in return (nope).

They finally separated after WWI, when Slovakia became part of Czechoslovakia instead. Czechoslovakia was nice to its minorities, including some Germans and Hungarians who found themselves within its new borders, and kept its democracy while all around it dictators ruled.

Hitler did not like that Czechoslovakia had German-speaking people, and so both countries agreed that Nazi Germany could take the Sudetenland.

Meanwhile Hungary took back the Hungarian-speaking parts in southern and eastern Slovakia.

Then Hitler threatened to take the rest of Slovakia unless it declared independence from Czechoslovakia and allied itself with Nazi Germany.

Jozeph Tiso

Because of this alliance, under the first Slovakian Republic, 83% of Slovakian Jews were murdered. The Republic’s leader, Jozeph Tiso, was somehow persuaded to pay Hitler to do away with these Jews. Doesn’t look good, does it?

In 1944 Slovaks finally got their act together and led the Slovak National Uprising against the Nazis, and Soviet Russia and Romania liberated them from the consequent German occupation the next year. Czechoslovakia was put back together and Tiso was hanged for his part in the events.

To stop Czechoslovakia falling apart again, the Allies insisted that all Germans and Hungarians be expelled.

Czechoslovakia (I wish I didn’t have to write that word so many times) came under Soviet Russia’s Warsaw Pact, when several eastern European countries banded together to defend themselves against America during the Cold War.

In 1969, a crazy year around the whole world for big changes, Czechoslovakia became a federation of the Czech and Slovak Socialist Republics.

In 1989 peaceful protests led to the end of Communism in Czechoslovakia in what is known as the Velvet Revolution, and the federation became the independent Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993 (this bit is sometimes called the Velvet Divorce).

Both countries cooperate with Hungary and Poland in the Visegrad Group, who help each other’s economy, military and energy.

Slovakia has a very cool landscape full of mountains and caves.

South Korea Constitution Day

Up to the beginning of the 20th century, Korea always tried to stay out of the West’s way, and so was known as the ‘Hermit Kingdom’. In 1910 Japan took Korea and ruled it by force for 35 years.

After World War II, Japan surrendered to the Allies and Korea was divided between Russia and America. North Korea was, of course, the Russian side.

Russia and America withdrew and tried to allow the two sides to govern themselves again – except the country had now been artificially divided and the North thought it should rule the South and the South thought it should rule the North.

In 1950, after North Korea had repeatedly asked Russia “Can we invade yet? Can we invade yet? Can we invade yet?”, it began the Korean War with Russian and Chinese support. America, etc., supported South Korea.

In 1953, after 2 million had died, an armistice was declared, but it was not until 2007 that both sides agreed that the war was officially over.

After that South Korea actually hasn’t done much better, in terms of being run by madmen, than North Korea. Corrupt presidents, military coups, dictators, etc… In 1979 a miltary dictator closed down the universities and the free press, and violently suppressed any protests, including torturing a student to death.

South Korea is ten times more densely populated than the global average, and 99% of the population are Korean – they even call themselves a ‘single-race society’.

A Korean instrument is the gayageum; but its music isn’t as famous as Psy’s….Their national sport is taekwondo. Popular food includes bibimbap and kimchi.

Galla Bayramy (2016, Turkmenistan celebrates wheat harvest, 3rd Sunday in July)

Also today:

  • King Letsie III’s Birthday (Lesotho)

1st January

New Year’s Day/Hogmany/First Foot

Bring coin, bread, salt, coal, or whisky round a neighbour’s as the first person through their door to bring them luck. Extra lucky if you happen to be a dark-haired man. Anne Cartwright’s blog has these lovely kits.

Eighth Day of Christmas (Maids a’ milking – try these milk science experiments)

Taiwan Founding Day

Taiwan’s name is a bit confusing. It is ruled by the Republic of China, which is mostly Taiwan and a few other islands, and it also calls itself the Chinese Taipei. Its original native inhabitants were Austronesian, and in fact, as the island had so many native languages, Taiwan seems to be where the Austronesian people came from, spreading from Madagascar to Easter Island.

In 1624 the Dutch established a fort here; the Spanish also briefly took over.

In 1662 a Chinese Ming loyalist took over, and raided China from Taiwan for ages, until the Qing dynasty of China annexed it.

in 1894-5 the First Sino-Japanese War was won by Japan and Taiwan went to them. There was a resistance, calling Taiwan its Portguese name, the Island of Formosa, but this was quashed.

In the 1930s Taiwanese culture was outlawed and everyone had to pretend to be Japanese.

Taiwan fought for Japan in WWII, and after Japan surrendered it became part of the Republic of China. No one in Taiwan seemed particularly happy with the government until the 22/8 incident in 1947 when the government shot dead thousands until people stopped complaining.

After WWII China got back to its civil war between the Nationalists/Kuonmintang and the Communists. In 1949 the Nationalists had been defeated, and moved to Taiwan, along with 2 million supporters and a bunch of Chinese national treasures and gold reserves. Both sides claimed to still rule all of China, including Taiwan. Awkward.

The Treaty of San Francisco in 1951 was supposed to make everything official, but as the US and UK couldn’t agree, now nobody knows exactly who Taiwan is supposed to belong to. Communist China? The Republic of China? US and the Allies still?

There then followed the White Terror, martial law until 1987, during which 140,000 people were executed for being possibly pro-Communist. Gradually, though, Taiwan has become democratic, and the financial support it received from the West during the Cold War made it one of the fastest growing economies.

Sudan Independence Day (from UK, 1956)

Sudan, Africa. http://www.operationworld.org/suda

The earliest kingdom in Sudan was the Nubian Kingdom of Kush. The Kush dynasty were also Egyptian pharoahs after invading Egypt, but they were driven back out by the Assyrians. The Kingdom of Kush became the Meroitic Kingdom, which by the 6th century had dissolved into about 50 states. Christianity arrived from the Byzantine Empire at this time.

Islam began to spread. In 1821 Ottoman-ruled Egypt invaded Sudan. Britain occupied it from 1852. In the 1870s we abolished slaves, which had a bad impact on Sudan’s economy and led to a Mahdist (“guided”) army led by Muhammed Ali al-Mahdi pushing out the Turco-Egyptian government. He kept trying to invade everywhere else, Egypt, Ethiopia, etc., but was repelled.

Lord Kitchener defeated the Madhist forces in 1898, and Sudan was then ruled by an Anglo-Egyptian governor-general. Britain didn’t want the two counties to unite though, because they didn’t want Egypt to control the whole Nile valley.

To be continued…

Other events today that may inspire you:

  • Cuba Liberation Day (see 20th May)
  • Haiti Independence Day (from France, 1804 – see 22 May)
  • Independence Day of the Slovak Republic (see 17th July)
  • Founding of the Republic of China (see 30 November)
  • Brunei Independence Day (from UK, 1984 – see 23rd February)
  • Italy Constitution Day (see 2nd June)
  • Public Domain Day (expiration of copyright)
  • Czech Independence Day (see 28th September)

30th December



The sixth day of Christmas

Rudyard Kipling’s birthday (1865), author of The Jungle Book and Just So Stories

Slovakia’s Independence Declaration Day – see 17th July

Rizal Day (Philippines):

The Philippines are named after King Philip II of Spain.

No one really knows whether the first human inhabitants of the Philippines evolved around there or moved in from Southeast Asia. By the 15th century Islam had arrived from Malaysia and Indonesia.

In 1521 Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan discovered and claimed the islands for Spain, who later made Manila their capital of the East Asian colonies.

In 1762 Britain sneaked in and occupied the islands for a couple of years during the Seven Years’ War.

From the 1870s a nationalist movement began, which led to the Revolution in 1896. One of the men who organised pro-nationalist propaganda in Spain was Jose Rizal, who was executed for his rebellion.

In 1898 the Spanish-American War, in which America helped Cuba gain independence from Spain, reached the Philippines and Spain sold the islands to America for $20 million.

The people of the Philippines thought this meant their independence, and declared themselves a Republic. America said no. The Philippines declared war on America. Yes, America won.

In World War II Japan invaded and set up their own government and were as cruel as ever, leaving 1 million Philippinos dead when the Allies ousted them at the end of the war.

In 1946 the Philippines finally gained independence. There were still a few Communist insurgents from the rebel army that had fought against Japan and now felt forgotten, but the main problem turned out to be the president himself, Ferdinand Marcos, who, when he realised his two terms were coming to an end, declared martial law so he could stay in power.

His rival, Benigno Aquino, came back from exile in America to sort things out and was shot dead coming off the plane. Following some rigged elections against Aquino’s widow, Corazon, the Filipinos got a bit angry and Marcos fled to Hawaii, leaving Corazon in power.

The Philippines is the second-largest producer of geothermal energy as it harnessed the power of its volcanoes, and it experiences around 20 small earthquakes a day. There are 175 languages spoken on the islands!

Activities: Have a look at some Phillipino animals: the tamaraw of Mindoro, the Visayan spotted deer, the Philippine mouse deer, the Visayan warty pig, the Philippine flying lemur, and the Phillipine tarsier. Try some Original Pilipino Music.

17th November

Queen Elizabeth I acceded the throne in 1558

Freedom and Democracy Day (Czech Republic, Slovakia)

National Revival (Azerbaijan):

Azerbaijan means ‘Guardian of Fire’ in Persian. It has world-famous petroglyphs in Gobustan – can your children make some rock carvings?


Azerbaijan has been part of the Scythian, Iranian Medes, Achaemenids and Alexander the Great’s empires. It was the first Muslim country in the world to allow operas and theatres and to give women the vote.

It became part of the Russian empire in 1813 until that collapsed after World War I; then it became the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. But in 1920 Soviet Russia decided they needed Azerbaijan for Baku (its capital)’s oil and so Azerbaijan was independent for fewer than two years! Baku supplied most of Russia’s energy in WWII. When Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, Azerbaijan declared its independence.

Azerbaijan music is called monody, mugham, meykhana and ashiq art, and they often play the saz. They hosted the 2012 Eurovision after winning 2011. Azerbaijani national dance is quite fun. The Azerbaijani carpet – try some weaving. A very Azerbaijanian meal would be pilaf with black tea to drink. Favourite games are football, wrestling, chess and backgammon.

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

1st September

1974 SR-71 Blackbird flies from New York to London in under 2 hours

1985 wreckage of Titanic discovered

Russian Knowledge Day (celebrating the first day back at school – here are some back to school traditions that your kid might like.

Uzbekistan Independence Day

The first people to arrive in Uzbekistan were Iranians from Kazakhstan in the 1st millenium B.C. Cities sprang up on the Silk Route to China, remains of which survive today.

Alexander the Great conquered the area in 327 B.C., and married Roxana, daughter of the king of the Persian Empire. Uzbekistan later became part of other Persian empires.

In the 13th century it became part of the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan.

In the early 14th century a tribal chieftain, Timur or Tamerlane, took over the area….and Iran, Central Asia, Asia Minor and India and invaded Russia, Turkey, Iraq and China. Quite the go-getter. After he died Uzbekistan became several Khanates.

By 1920 Russia had taken over. They regained independence in 1991. They’re doing ok – they have gold, copper, uranium, oil and gas. At cotton-harvest time the schools close and all the students and teachers help with the harvest for free. This constitutes child slave-labour so a lot of Western companies can’t use it.

The national music style is Shashmaqam. They drink a lot of green or black tea, and in the summer drink a salty yoghurt drink called Ayran. They have a kind of wrestling called Kurash.

Also today:

  • Eritrea Anniversary of the Start of the Armed Struggles (start of war of independence from Ethiopia, 1961-91; see 24th May)
  • Amerindian Heritage Month (Guyana)
  • Slovak Constitution Day (see 17th July)