Saturnalia was celebrated by the ancient Romans from December 17 through December 23. The festival was organized around the time of the winter solstice. The celebrations began with a festival honoring Saturn. Thereafter people wore their best clothing and sometimes peaked hats. Banquets and parties abounded. Gifts were exchanged on the third day of the festival.
Aztec stone calendar was discovered in Mexico City in 1790. The huge stone, weighing almost 25 tons and measuring over eleven feet in diameter, was probably carved around 1479. It was buried soon after the Spanish arrived. The stone demonstrated how the Aztec 52-year calendar cycle worked. Children could also see how to make a simple calendar stone at:
Aztec Calendar Stone
A Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens, was published in 1843. Dickens started working on the novella in September 1843, and it was finished only days before it was published. While Dickens did not receive the royalties he desired, the work was highly acclaimed. The work was adapted for the stage as early as February, 1844. Children can read the novella at: A Christmas Carol
Wilbur and Orville Wright flew the first airplane in 1903 near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Orville piloted the first successful flight. Then Wilbur had his turn. Each flight lasted less than a minute. The flights were results of years of experimentation. Children could view the Wright Brothers’ accomplishments at: First Flight. They could also read Russell Freedman’s The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane.
Raúl Colón (born New York, New York, 1952) illustrates books for children. He illustrated Celebration! by Jane Resh Thomas and A Weave of Words by Robert D. San Souci.
William Floyd (born Brookhaven, Long Island, 1734; died Westernville, New York, August 4, 1821) signed the Declaration of Independence. Born to a wealthy farming family, he had little formal education. He was elected to the Continental Congress in 1774. During the Revolutionary War he continued to serve in Congress. He was also major general of a New York militia. The British discovered his strong political views and confiscated his estate. His wife and children were able to escape before the British arrived. The British turned his home into a barracks and ruined his property. After the war, he rebuilt his home. He was elected to the first House of Representatives and served from 1789 to 1791.
Pope Francis (born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1938) is the 266th (and current) pope.
Deborah Sampson (born Plympton, Massachusetts, 1760; died Sharon, Massachusetts, April 29, 1827) actually fought during the Revolutionary War. Since women were not accepted into the army during the Revolutionary War, she disguised herself as a man. For over a year, she was a capable fighter. She was wounded and chose to dress the wound herself because she was afraid she would be discovered. She became very ill and had to seek medical attention. Her secret was discovered, and she was discharged from the army. She received a military pension for a number of years. Idea: Children might want to read Ann McGovern’s The Secret Soldier: The Story of Deborah Sampson. Now women are part of the military. Children could interview a woman in the military. How is military service for women different from service in the past?
John Greenleaf Whittier (born Haverhill, Massachusetts, 1807; died Hampton Fall, New Hampshire, September 7, 1892) was a poet. A Quaker, he was active in the anti-slavery movement. One of his most famous poems is “Ichabod,” published in 1850. The poem criticizes the Compromise of 1850 and Daniel Webster. Children can view his works at: Project Gutenberg.
Niger celebrates Republic Day. It became a republic in 1958 before it became free of French control in 1960. This landlocked country, located in Africa, is a bit less than twice the size of Texas. Niger is mostly covered with deserts and mountains. Almost seventeen million people live in Niger, and Niamey is the capital.
New Jersey became the third state by ratifying the Constitution in 1787. It was named after an island in the English Channel. The state’s nickname is the Garden State, and Trenton is the capital. During the American Revolution, at least one hundred battles were fought in New Jersey. It is one of the most densely populated states. While it contains large cities, it also boasts about its farms and shores. The honeybee is the state insect. Children could visit an Internet site at: New Jersey. They could locate on a map the sites of the Revolutionary War battles. They could find out why so many battles happened in New Jersey.
The Nutcracker, created by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovksy, was performed for the first time in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1892. The ballet was based on Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann’s story, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.” The ballet is performed countless times, especially in the United States, at holiday time. Children can read the wonderfully illustrated The Nutcracker, by Susan Jeffers, to understand the ballet’s story.
Capitol Reef National Park was established in 1971. Located in southern Utah, the park follows a one hundred-mile wrinkle in the earth’s crust. Visitors can view fossils, petrified trees, and Native American ruins. Children can visit the park’s website, featuring great panoramas and wonderful photos, at: http://www.nps.gov/care.