1st March

St David’s Day (Wales):

Make daffodils out of egg cartons:

daffodil lollipops:

daffodil candy cups:

daffodil windmills:

daffodil cupcakes:

Or try some St David’s Day Welsh food, like Glamorgan sausages:

and Welsh cakes:

Eat them up with Welsh love spoons:

A bit about Wales: it has been inhabited for at least 29,000 years. About 12,000 years ago, in the last Ice Age, when sea levels were lower, hunter-gatherers could just walk from Europe to the UK across Doggerland, a piece of land now under the North Sea. The last glacier in Wales melted away about 10,000 years ago, and the rising sea separated it from Ireland. 8,000 years ago Britain became an island.

Eventually the Stone Age people became Bronze Age people, and then Iron Age Celts. The Romans arrived in A.D. 48 and stayed for 300 years, extracting gold, copper and lead but not really ever being allowed to Romanise the people as they did in England.

In 383 A.D. a Roman general called Magnus Maximus left Britain with all of its troops and governors, planning to rule as Emperor from Gaul. As he left he bestowed ruling power on local authorities, and so he is seen as one of the Welsh founding fathers for appointing local people the power to rule Wales. I think….

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Romano-Britons formed little kingdoms which fought with each other to define their boundaries. In the 8th century King Offa built Offa’s Dyke which still roughly separates Wales from England.

In 853 the Vikings raided the island of Anglesey but the king of Gwynedd defeated them, allied with them and invaded the north of Wales with them.

In the 11th century Gruffydd ap Llewellyn became the only Welsh king ever to rule over the entire territory of Wales. Then William the Conqueror took England, and gave lords with their own ruling laws reign over the area near Wales – this was called the Welsh Marches.

Llewellyn Fawr became the first Prince of Wales following the Magna Carta in 1215, but in 1282 Edward I invaded and the Welsh princes ended with Llewellyn’s head being carried through London on a spear. Under Henry VIII Wales became part of the UK.

In the Industrial Revolution Wales became a centre for copper mining and iron smelting – Parys Mountain in Anglesey had the world’s biggest copper mine. Later slate quarrying and coal mining became successful. Just before the First World War, Wales was at its peak coal production, exporting millions of tons a year. In WWII 10% of all young male conscripts were sent into the coal mines – they became known as the Bevin Boys.

In 1925 the political party Plaid Cymru was formed, seeking independence from the UK. In 1955 Cardiff became Wales’ capital city. In 1965, despite 34 out of 35 Welsh MPs voting against it, a Welsh village was flooded to make a reservoir for Liverpool, because there were simply more English MPs who voted for it. In 1997 the Welsh National Assembly was set up to decide how Wales’s budget is run. Wales defines itself as a country, although Prince Charles’s title of Prince of Wales suggests it is really a principality.

Read Celtic myths or the Mabinogian; play rugby!



Martenitsa (Bulgaria): On 1 March, Bulgarians celebrate Baba Marta Day. Baba Marta is a mythical old woman whose moods affect the weather in March. They make martenitisi and give them away to friends and family.

They tie them round their wrists as a symbol of good fortune, health and prosperity. When they see a tree in blossom, or a stork or swallow, they remove the bracelet and put it on the tree or under a stone. The wearing of the bracelet is also supposed to be a wish for spring, to make winter pass more quickly.

Romanians celebrate Martisor in a similar way, with red and white or black and white bracelets that they wear for the first 12 days of the month to represent prosperity for the next 12 months. They often have little talismans tied onto them to represent what they want in the year ahead. They also make a Martisor tort.


1810 Frederick Chopin born – here’s a beginner’s guide.


National Pig Day (US): Make a piggy bank:

or learn about the Three Little Pigs:


Other events that might inspire your play today:

  • Iceland’s Beer Day – see 17th June
  • Bosnia-Herz Independence Day – see 25th November
  • S. Korea 1 March Movement Day (celebrates resistance to Japanese occupation) – see 17th July.

11th November

Armistice: Wear a poppy and talk about what it means; make a poppy picture; observe two minutes’ silence. We watch these two sand art/ shadow theatre pieces.


Pocky/Pretz/Pepero Day (Japan and South Korea): you can make your own using this recipe.

1889 Washington State founded: where Starbucks and Microsoft come from.

Angola Independence Day (from Portugal, 1975)

Angola was first inhabited by hunter-gatherers, and then the Bantu people. The Portuguese explorer Diogo Cão arrived in 1484, and the Portuguese soon established forts, settlements and trading posts – mainly for trading in Angolan slaves. Nice.

(to be continued…)

Poland Independence Day (1918)

Karneval/Fasching opens

Maldives Republic Day

3rd October

52 BC Vercingetorix surrenders to the Gauls under Julius Caesar

Day of German Unity:

Humans have lived in Germany for at least 600,000 years. The world’s oldest complete hunting weapons were found there, 380,000 years old. The first Neanderthal fossil was found in Neander Thal (Neander valley), 40,000 years old. The world’s oldest music instruments ever found, flutes made of bird bone and mammoth ivory, 42,000 years old, were also found there. The Lion man of the Hohlenstein Stadel, 40,000 years old, and the Venus of Hohle Fels, 35,000 years old, are the oldest pieces of figurative art in the world. Phew!

Germanic tribes emerged in the Iron Age and by 100 A.D. they had pretty much filled Germany. Austria and Bavaria were part of the Roman Empire.

From 800 A.D. it was part of the Carolingian Empire, started under the Frankish kind Charlemagne/Charles the Great. This split in 843 into the earliest ideas of France and Germany. The ‘Germany’ bit became the Holy Roman Empire. North Germany got pretty rich thanks to the Hanseatic League, a guild of seafaring merchants, that basically ruled trade in northern Europe, but the Great Famine then the Black Death in the 1300s knocked them back again.

In 1517 Martin Luther founded the Protestant Reformation. The Holy Roman Empire fragmented and led to the Thirty Years’ War, Catholics against Protestants, involving most of central Europe. By the 18th century, the empire was broken into about 1,800 territories.

39 German states came together as the Deutscher Bund in 1814. They even made an economic union called the Zollverein. But the French Revolution was going off and the Germans wanted one too – they invited the Prussian king, Frederick William IV, to be emperor-with-not-quite-as-much-power-as-usual. He said no.

In 1862 King William I of Prussia appointed Bismarck as his Minister President. He created the Norddeutscher Bund and excluded Austria, whom he’d just defeated in a war. Ner ner, you can’t come in. Austria were normally the biggest influence in German unions. Then he defeated France in the Franco-Prussian War, which he had engineered to bring the southern German states into his union. Still excluded Austria though, and called it Kleindeutschland, Little Germany. Emperor William I and Bismarck, Chancellor of Germany, went on to collect a load of African colonies.

Austria’s crown prince, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated, and Germany fought with the Central Powers against the Allies. They lost, 2 million German soldiers were killed, and in 1919 the German Revolution forced Kaiser Wilhelm II to abdicate. The June 1919 Treaty of Versailles forced Germany to accept total responsibility for WWI, to disarm its military, to give up its colonies, and pay reparations to the Allies (about £280 billion in modern money).

On 11 August 1919 the Weimar Republic was formed. There were difficulties: Germany faltered in reparation repayments and France and Belgium retaliated by invading the Ruhr; and in 1922 the country suffered hyperinflation and everyone had to take their Marks home in wheelbarrows. They introduced the Rentenmark to replace the Mark (by when the American dollar was worth 4,210,500,000,000 German marks).

In 1930 Germany introduced a policy of austerity, which only increased unemployment but did reduce inflation. In 1932 the Nazis won 32% of the vote and Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany. A fire in the Reichstag (parliament building) was enough for Hitler to remove everyone’s civil rights and get rid of all the other political parties and open concentration camps (boy that escalated quickly).

Hitler started rearming the military and created lots of employment and industry. However, in 1935 he introduced laws persecuting Jews. This gradually became the Holocaust, killing 6 million Jews, and hundreds of thousands of Romani people, disabled people, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals and anyone who disagreed with the Nazis in general.

Then he took back the Saar and the Rhineland, and invaded Austria and then Poland after pretending Poland attacked them first (Operation Himmler). Russia joined in the fun. The UK and France declared war on Germany and so WWII began.

In 1940 France surrendered, but Britain managed to win the Battle of Britain (aerial attacks on our cities). In 1941 Germany turned on Russia and invaded them, but were defeated in the Battle of Stalingrad.

Italy surrendered to the Allies in 1943 and gradually a Western Front opened. We got into Germany in 1945; Hitler committed suicide and Germany surrendered.

Germany split into the Federal Republic of Germany (West/BRD) under the UK, France and US, and the German Democratic Republic (East/DDR) under Russia.

West Germany had a lot of support from America and became an economic miracle, and a founding member of the EEC in 1957. Poor East Germany was spied on by the Stasi and didn’t get as rich, so the Berlin Wall was built to stop East Germans fleeing to the West. Everyone ended up just fleeing via Hungary instead, so in 1989 the wall fell. In 1990 the four occupying powers renounced their rule and Germany was reunified.


Learn about the Berlin wall, and see the Hoff’s awesome light-up jacket.

Eat a German breakfast:

For lunch have pretzels with more meat and cheese, and for dinner have sausages with sauerkraut, and kaesespaetzle. Definitely make a Black Forest Gateau or apple strudel.

Listen to Bach, Beethoven, Wagner, Mozart, Brahms, Strauss, Schubert, Handel, Mendelssohn….Nena, Tokio Hotel, Kraftwerk.


World Space Week (2016)

Also today:

  • Iraqi Independence Day (from UK, 1932) – see 14th July
  • S. Korea National Foundation Day – see 17th July

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)
  • Big Butterfly Count starts (2015) – http://www.bigbutterflycount.org/
  • BBC Proms start (2015)

8th May

1886 Coca-Cola patented as a medicine

1926 David Attenborough’s birthday – Africa, The Blue Planet and  Life in the Undergrowth are my favourites.

Birthday of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (led a failed attempt at Mexican independence in 1810, leading to a decade of war)

Korea Parents’ Day – children give parents carnations.

[President] Truman Day (Missouri)

Victory in Europe Day – related days: Czech Liberation Day, France/Slovakia/Tahiti Victory Day, Turkmenistan Heroes’ Day; this book looks fun.

International Red Cross/Red Crescent Day