Month: March 2024

The Origins of Easter

The Origins of Easter

While researching for my second novel, I learnt about the origin of the word Easter and the different tradition in France where this novel, The Last Hotel is set.

The English word Easter is derived from ‘Eostre’, the name of a pre-Christian goddess associated with spring and fertility. Easter occurs at the spring equinox when the day is divided into equal periods of night and day. Spring in the northern hemisphere is a season of new life for plants and animals. Hence the bunnies, chicks and eggs of Easter celebrations in the Western world. Easter occurs at the spring equinox when the day is divided into equal periods of night and day. Spring in the northern hemisphere is a season of new life for plants and animals.

Easter and the natural world

Religious festivals are often connected to the natural world and its seasons. Before all the modern gadgets, electricity and devices, man was more in tune with the natural world. When the sun set the only light was from the moon until the sun rose again. Imagine that. Today you have to take a camping trip to a remote area to experience that. Even then some fellow campers could bring along televisions etc. Don’t you hate that. Why go camping??!

In the non-English speaking world, Easter is called by derivatives of the word Passover which is the festival in Hebrew Culture celebrating the liberation of the Jews from Egypt. (Book of Exodus). The word Pascha comes from the Hebrew Pesah. Unleavened or unrisen bread is eaten in the form of matzo. Jewish people and others enjoy matzo ball soup which is quite delicious.

The trial and crucifixion of Jesus occurred at Passover, so his death and resurrection coincide with Passover. His death is honored on Good Friday and his rebirth on the Easter Sunday. These same days became associated with the pagan festivities of the time celebrating renewal and rebirth. This explains the origins of Easter.

Easter is both a happy and sad time

In the Christian calendar, Ash Wednesday precedes Good Friday by about six weeks and is the start of Lent. This traditionally is a time of fasting and prayer leading up to Easter.

Not all Christians observe the Lent ritual. Ashes were used in ancient times to express grief and sorrow and placed on the head.

In the Christian tradition, Easter is both a sad and joyous date on the calendar. It marks the death but also the resurrection of Jesus. As Easter is determined by the moon and seasons, the actual calendar date varies from year to year.

What is the Holy Week?

Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem triumphant and feted on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before the day that would become known as Easter Sunday.

This is the beginning of Holy Week. The Last Supper took place on the Thursday, Maundy Thursday when Jesus ate with his disciples. That night he prayed long into the night in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas, one of his disciples, betrayed him. He fell out of favor with authorities, and they crucified and buried him on Good Friday.

According to the Bible, Jesus rose from the dead three days later, on Easter Sunday, signaling the victory of life over death and the promise of eternal salvation for believers. Believing in his deity as the son of God, and trusting in his guidance, guarantees you forgiveness of your sins and life everlasting in heaven.

Christians attend church services at Easter. The Good Friday service is a solemn service that usually follows the 14 stations of the cross as Jesus made his way carrying the heavy cross to his place of crucifixion.

On Easter Sunday, the service is by contrast joyful celebrating his rising or resurrection. Both services involve participation in special liturgies and hymns. Some churches also hold Easter processions and pageants, reenacting the events of the resurrection. This is particularly so in the Philippines where the Holy Week is celebrated.

Easter, a time of hope and renewal

Easter is a holiday rich in history and tradition. It is intercultural around the world. Whether you celebrate it for its religious significance or its cultural significance, it is a time of renewal and hope, a time to celebrate the arrival of spring or hope and the promise of new life.

Later as children became a distinct entity not just little adults, mythical bunnies were added from German folklore to deliver sweet nougat or chocolate eggs to ‘good’ children just as Santa Claus rewarded them at Christmas. In Europe, it is also traditional to paint eggshells and hang the pretty eggs as a display.

In France chocolate bells also feature as a tradition to connect with the joyful ringing of church bells on Easter Sunday.

From Christian sorrow and joy, church services to family gatherings or Easter eggs brought by the Easter bunny, Easter is a time to come together with loved ones and rejoice in the blessings of life and be grateful.

Happy Easter!

photo source

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels: Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel, Colour Comes to Tangles and Time, Heal my Heart. Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

Who invented buttons?

Who invented buttons?

Now, this seems a silly question. You might answer who cares. Buttons are trivial nonessentials to everyday life. But since my week strangely enough has been besieged by buttons, I asked myself this question. Who invented buttons?

My week started ordinarily enough but then on two separate occasions; a button popped off my dress. Two occasions, two different dresses. Now you may say, “well, all your dresses must be close to their use by date.” And this could be true. I do hang onto things a little longer than the average girl. Returning home from the second outing minus another button, I decided to replace the missing buttons. Being a thrifty baby boomer, I had a ready supply of spare buttons in an allocated tin. My father who taught me such thriftiness, would have been proud of my preparedness.

Sorting buttons, Am I mad?

The buttons I needed were not immediately found in the large tin, so I poured the contents of the whole tin into a salad bowl and started sorting. By the end of an hour and two cups of tea later (plus one and a half slices of lemon madeira cake), I had piles of buttons sorted by colour. There were lots of white shirt buttons, and less of the coloured versions. The three orange buttons were an unexpected find.

Buttons sorted, I sewed on the missing dress buttons and put all the sewing paraphernalia away. If you have survived reading this far, well done! Silly lady chatter. This boring mundane activity did not pique my interest into the origins of the button. It was the next day at my weekly women’s group where rather than our usual mystery guest speaker, we had instead a craft activity. And, oh no, the craft material provided was, you guessed, it buttons. We were like kindergarteners or those at the other end of life, the nursing home inmates, making cards using buttons (and a few bows.)

The history of buttons

So, this weird coincidence led me to ponder the meaning of life, according to buttons. Who invented buttons? Were they always for fastening clothes? Let’s unpack a bit of fashion history. Buttons are traced to the Indus Valley (Pakistan) circa 2800 BC, Scotland c 2000BC and in the Bronze Age sites in China and Ancient Rome. So, buttons have been around a fair time. They were used for ornamental purposes on fabric but not as fasteners, just for decoration. The first buttons were made from seashells and then later of the newly formed metal, alloy of bronze made from copper and tin.

The development of buttons follows the history of materials available to man. Over their history, buttons have been crafted from shells, ivory, metal, glass, silk, enamel, leather, enamel, wood, china and plastic. Buttons used for fastening date to the Roman Empire where leatherwork shows buttonholes. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that where there were buttonholes there were buttons. These were evidenced in leather satchels before use on clothes and shoes. By the Byzantine, there were buttons to fasten cuffs and necks of shirts and tunics and for sleeves and necklines for women’s dresses.

The word ‘button’ comes from a German word meaning ‘to push through’ which makes sense once the buttonhole emerged.

Buttons as status symbols

At some time, the side on which the button was sewn became gender assigned.  The left for women and the right for men. This is believed to be due to a man having to draw his weapon from left to right without slicing off his supply of buttons. Another reason is that the maids need to dress their ladies with their right hand, and this is easier if the buttons are on the left. The badge like buttons also emerged and worn to advertise allegiance to a group or army. Soldier buttons could even serve as lockets with locks of their beloved one’s hair kept inside close to their heart. With all buttons, the fancier the button, the higher the status of the wearer. Buttons were status symbols just like rings and jewelry can be today.

Why do the Amish ban buttons?

Maybe this is why the Amish people ban buttons, calling them along with many other modernities, ‘proud.’Buttons are a sign of individuality and vanity, two things the Amish try to avoid. By not wearing buttons, all members of the community look the same regardless of their wealth or social standing. Anything individual brings attention to oneself, so buttons are not on the Amish agenda. Uniformity is the key.

I would not be happy as an Amish woman. I love colour and diversity in clothing. It makes me feel happy. That is why I wrote a book about colour; Colour Comes to Tangles.

Buttons for everyone

Moving on; The Industrial Revolution brought buttons and many other products to the masses. Buttons now could be made en masse not singly by artisans. The simple flat button with two or four holes was easier to manufacture than a button with a stud or post or a cuff-link toggle style. Most shirt and dress buttons were flat and white or bone coloured and this is still true today.

Then came the zipper

With time, other forms of fastening clothes evolved such as the press stud, hook and eye and the zipper. The last, the clasp fastener or zipper as it is now known, has revolutionised clothing, handbags and many, many other everyday objects. No one individual is responsible but a series of gentlemen. see the zipper link. 

Elias Howe, Jr. (1819–1867), the inventor of the sewing machine, received a patent in 1851 for an “Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure.” Elias did not pursue marketing his clothing closure system and so missed his chance to become the “Father of the Zip.”

Forty-four years later, Whitcomb Judson (1846–1909) marketed a “Clasp Locker” device similar to Howe’s idea. As first to market, Whitcomb became the “inventor of the zipper.” However, his 1893 patent did not use the word zipper.

The 1851 Chicago “Clasp Locker” was first a hook-and-eye shoe fastener, a redesign of Elias Howe’s. Colonel Lewis Walker, Whitcomb launched the Universal Fastener Company to manufacture the new device. The clasp locker made its debut at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair but was met with little enthusiasm. Instead, Swedish-born electrical engineer, Gideon Sundback (1880–1954) made the zipper the hit it is today.

The “zipper” name came from the B. F. Goodrich Company, which used Sundback’s fastener on rubber boots. or galoshes. However, it took 20 more years to convince the fashion industry to use the closure on garments.

In the 1930s, a sales campaign began for children’s clothing featuring zippers. The campaign promoted zippers for self-reliance in young children as zippers made it possible for children to dress themselves.

No more buttons for the fly.

In 1937, the zipper beat the button in the “Battle of the Fly.” French fashion designers used zippers in men’s trousers and Esquire magazine declared the zipper the way to go for men. There would be no more peep hole embarrassments caused by missing or undone buttons. But the men still had to remember to zip their fly!

The next big boost for the zipper came when zippers could open on both ends such as on jackets. Today the zipper is everywhere. But we still have buttons!  Those cute little fasteners that led to the saying ‘as cute as a button.

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels: Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel Colour Comes to Tangles and her latest historical WWI drama, Time Heal my Heart. Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

Photo by elnaz asadi on Unsplash

 

Why do we run away from trauma?

Why do we run away from trauma?

Characters that run away from trauma

As I write this, I realize that all of my five novels have characters, mostly women that run away from their current lives. They run away from trauma. Maybe it is a coincidence I choose this theme or is it because I myself am a runaway? Mind you, history is full of examples of women running away. I never realized until I started researching the matter. The correct term for this response to trauma is called ‘dissociative fugue.’

In my first novel, Whispers through Time, set in early 1900s, two sisters, Francesca and Winifred run away from London to Australia to escape their unhappiness. The characters were inspired by me reflecting why my grandmother ran off from her large family of siblings in London. Then later in life she runs away again from her new family and that is why I barely knew her. Why do we run away from trauma?  She shut herself off from her loved ones.

Why does a woman run away? It is the subject of today’s blog, The runaway response to trauma.

Then in my best seller, The Last Hotel, my character Jenny escapes her abusive marriage for a holiday in France with her ballet dancer son. Unwittingly, I’m at it again, in Colour Comes to Tangles, my next book. One of the characters is missing in action somewhere and her friends mount a search. In Time Heal my Heart, another historical, it is a minor character but a mysterious one who leaves her native France to come to Australia. To tell you more would contain spoilers. Find more plot details on my website or Amazon books.

Agatha Christie, the runaway

So let me start exploring this runaway phenomenon as it is a recurring theme and true to life, not just the stuff of fiction. Did you know that Agatha Christie, the famous mystery writer ran away? In 1926, she disappeared for ten days and the police from two counties were looking for her. It was as sensational as her best seller of a few years previous, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, the book that made her famous.  After a quarrel with her cheating husband, Archie, Agatha drives off and parks her car precariously overlooking a Surrey quarry and plain disappears. She leaves behind her fur coat and driver’s license and also leaves the car headlights on.

What are the police to presume from this? Yes, of course, it looks suspicious, and Archie is the prime suspect. Agatha is missing presumed the victim of foul play. But in reality, she just wandered off and caught public transport to Harrogate where she booked into a hotel under the name of her husband’s mistress. Curious and curiouser as Alice would say. Finally, after an exhaustive police hunt and public newspaper appeals someone at the hotel recognizes Agatha and she is found.

Public opinion is mixed. Was it a staged disappearance to gain publicity or a desperate appeal to her husband to rethink his request for a divorce. Or was it neither of these and just amnesia? This seems more likely as Agatha was a shy woman not one to invite attention. Indeed, although today the answer to her strange disappearance is not any of these for sure, it makes sense that she was so distressed by the recent death of her mother and infidelity of Archie, that she just ran away. It was all too much.

Fugue or running away from trauma

I can relate to this myself as I did just that twenty odd years ago. Like Agatha it was out of character and surprised everyone even me. This condition is called ‘dissociative fugue’ and is a way of avoiding a situation because the trauma is too much to process at the time. This all makes sense but was not a known condition at the time. Nor is it today. I had never heard of it until I was researching Agatha Christie for my blog and a U3A talk.

This fugue state is one of four reactions to trauma that all start with the letter ‘f’. They are freeze, fight, fawn or flee. Fugue is the equivalent of the flee version. The others involve doing nothing, fighting, submitting in that order. These are common responses seen in domestic violence situations. Often the woman abused is too afraid to do anything and so ultimately submits and tries to please or appease her abuser. Fighting is not often a viable method especially if the other person is much bigger or stronger. Fleeing can work if you have somewhere safe to go. Agatha had a car and money to stay at a hotel, but many women cannot just run away especially if children are involved.

Historical cases of women running away from trauma

Decades ago, many women had unwanted pregnancies and had nowhere to turn. The shame of their situation led them to be dismissed from their domestic service and shunned by the father. This terrible situation is the plot for many a historical novel ie beautiful young servant impregnated by rogue son of the manor. Thomas Hardy was the master of such tales. Tess of the d’Urbervilles is a tragedy due to the Victorian morals that set one rule for men and another for women. Tess is seduced and shamed by a bad man and suffers the damnation of society.

Women who cannot run away from trauma

Fortunately, in Western countries this is not such an issue. Governments now support unwed mothers to be. But in many African and Arabic cultures the shame is still there, and fathers or brothers still murder female family members that dishonor the family name. It is very difficult for these women to run away and start again. Women instead often stay and submit to the penalty. Most times it is not even their fault that they shame the family. Many are victims of rape or incest. It is a sad world where this still happens.

Despite progress, it is still a patriarchal world where women and girls suffer. The suffragettes fought for women’s rights, women gained the right to vote but they are still often the victims of men’s aggression.

If you like to read books about real women, then try one of my novels. I have three historical and two contemporary and all are based on real lives and situations.

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels: Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel Colour Comes to Tangles and her latest historical WWI drama, Time Heal my Heart. Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.