Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Brief History on Bathing

I am not sure why this thought came up while I was showering the other day, I got thinking of what it might have been like in days gone by when water was not so warm and abundant and bathing not quite so regular, I took a look at some of the facts.

I was a tomboy growing up and hated to take baths.  Mom would tell me after getting out of the tub, “you could grow potatoes in those ears” which was ridiculous there wasn’t enough dirt in there to grow a vegetable like that.

I remember one time I got a bit of frost bite acting foolishly, I didn’t actually know I had frostbite at the time, my friend ran a warm bath for me to soak in an effort to warm me up, I put my toe in the water and it was burning hot.  When I felt the water with my hand it was pleasantly warm  that was when we knew I was in trouble.  We had to drain the tub and start with cold water.  This happened in Upstate New York in the middle of the winter.  I fell in an icy river but that's another story.

Bathing, swimming, showers, and hot tubs have always been a featured part of my life so some of these stories are downright shocking to me.  History is so fascinating.

Japan is situated between two volcanic belts, which have offered a perfect solution to bathing for thousands of years. The thermal baths are a traditional part of Japanese history and public bathing has been a way of life since the dawn of Buddhism, which taught that hygiene not only purified the body of sin but also brought luck.  With my habits I should have quite a backlog of luck.

Seems there was much more bathing going on when there were hot springs available nearby for the pleasure of the bather.  For hundreds of years Germany’s public baths have been noted for their healing properties some are salt water based, some have carbonic acid springs all to promote various healings, the popularity of these baths date to pre-Christian times and are still quite popular.

The always inventive Romans had great baths which were a social occasion.  Celebrating the body first by cleaning it then by soaking and socializing depending on the dates I found sometimes the baths were segregated for men and women and then there were the frisky days of mixed sex baths.  I am just not sure I am cut out for socializing in baths when I don’t know who the last bather was or how long the water has been in the tub which could have been some time. 

A popular way to keep the bath heated was to deposit large heated rocks in the tub.  People who love bathing are always thinking of ways to enhance the experience.

The old saying, "don’t let them catch you with your pants down" may have come from the Romans seems the knights that spent too much time in the public baths would be attacked by their foes which was a very quick and easy to dispatch an opponent.  Ouch!

It is comforting to know that public bathing was forbidden during a plague, now that seems positively reasonable.   

For some it was a seasonal obligation like spring and fall house cleaning.  I can hear it now, “Martha, it is time for me to take my spring bath do you really think I need one?”

For a time bathing was forbidden, and other times mandated by law, so confusing.

Then I started looking at the bathing habits of Europe’s royalty.  Some of these monarchs bragged they only bathed two or three times in their lives.  Can you imagine they would rather have a person scrape the crud off of them than submit to a bath? 

In some courts the use of cologne was liberal and pungent.  I’ll bet in the winter between the stinkin people, animals in the castle, and all the smoke from braisers and fire places those people were delighted when spring came.

Again, the data supports I was born at the right time for me.  I can take a bath anytime I  like, the water is hot, clean,  and I don’t have to share my tub.  Although one time I ran a tub of water, with bubbles no less, and when I got back to the bathroom there was a 100lb Golden Retriever sitting in it, wish I had a picture to show you of that.

I hope you have time to spoil yourself today in a relaxing bath.

God Bless,
Director of Member Services and Smiles
OurHealth Co-op, Inc

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