Welcome Spring. It has a lot of flowers and perfumes... (May Day)

History of perfumes (part 2): Minoans in Egypt

Minoa and Ancient Egypt. Two cultures in Mediterranean Sea that they liked the perfumes.

For some 30 years an Austrian team from the University of Vienna headed by Prof. M. Bietak has been conducting excavations at the Eastern Nile Delta in Egypt. They discovered a large city containing palaces, cemeteries and ordinary houses. It was founded in the Middle Kingdom c. 2000 BC but it continued to flourish for at least another 1000 years. Some scholars identify this city with the ancient city of Avaris and the Biblical site of Piramese. Since Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt from this city, the site has attracted great interest. Yet the excavations did not reveal traces of Israelites in the Egyptian city but Minoans from the island of Crete. The palaces of Avaris were decorated with paintings that were clearly executed by Minoan Cretan artists. What were Minoans doing there? The answer to the riddle is still uncertain. The speaker will address the problem of the Minoans in Egypt, and show slides of the paintings they executed. Professor Marinatos will discuss the difficulties of restoration, and explore the Minoan ideology expressed through these paintings. She will also reflect on the historical links between Minoan Crete and Egypt around 1500BC. Nanno Marinatos is one of the world's foremost experts in Minoan culture. Nanno studied in the U.S. and Germany, and has made significant contributions in the study of Minoan and Greek religion through her books and articles. She has appeared on television, the BBC, the Discovery Channel, and Norwegian and German Television programs. She is currently a full professor of Classics and Mediterranean Studies at UIC.

Fragment of a Minoan fresco found in Avaris, Egypt.
This fresco is very similar to another fresco from Knossos, Crete.



until April 29th, 2009

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Galbanum & Labdanum History of perfumes (part 2)


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Galbanum is an aromatic gum resin, the product of certain Persian plant species, chiefly Ferula gummosa, syn. galbaniflua and Ferula rubricaulis. Galbanum-yielding plants grow plentifully on the slopes of the mountain ranges of northern Iran. It occurs usually in hard or soft, irregular, more or less translucent and shining lumps, or occasionally in separate tears, of a light-brown, yellowish or greenish-yellow colour, and has a disagreeable, bitter taste, a peculiar, somewhat musky odour, and a specific gravity of 1.212. It contains about 8% terpenes; about 65% of a resin which contains sulfur; about 20% gum; and a very small quantity of the colorless crystalline substance umbelliferone.

Galbanum is one of the oldest of drugs. In the Book of Exodus 30:34, it is mentioned as being used in the making of a perfume for the tabernacle. Rashi of the 1100s comments on this passage that galabanum is bitter and was included in the incense as a reminder of deliberate and unrepentant sinners.

It is occasionally used in the making of modern perfume, and is the ingredient which gives the distinctive smell to the fragrance "Must" by Cartier. Hippocrates employed it in medicine, and Pliny (Nat. Hist. xxiv. 13) ascribes to it extraordinary curative powers, concluding his account of it with the assertion that "the very touch of it mixed with oil of spondylium is sufficient to kill a serpent." The drug is occasionally given in modern medicine, in doses of from five to fifteen grains. It has the actions common to substances containing a resin and a volatile oil. Its use in medicine is, however, obsolete.

Amber Jayanti, in her book Living the Qabalistic Tarot says that Galbanum oil is linked with the Tarot card called The Fool. Also called Fiery Intelligence, the Fool represents the divine spark that animates the universe. According to Richard Alan Miller (The Magical and Ritual Use of Perfumes), galbanum oil is steam-distilled to yield a green, fruity-floral odor reminiscent of green apples. The Fool card is also linked with the herb ginseng.

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

Above, dried Galbanum from the Swedish Museum of Natural History - Linnean Garden

Connecting to nature and beauty through the sense of smell and perfume. Past and present, Social and historical; practical and pleasurable.

Galbanun & Labdanum

These are perfume materials that have been used since ancient times and often for medicinal and spiritual purposes. Both are listed in the Bible as components of the incense to be burned before the tabernacle. Both used in modern perfumes of the Chypre type, adding a deep balsamic and woody lingering quality. I happen to have some Labdanum essential oil so I tried a drop on my skin, it is intensely woody, smokey, sweet and resinous and seems to have a strongly calming effect. Galbanum and Labdanum are used as a remedy to counter anxiety, not surprisingly. If perfume is for the purpose of making the wearer feel good, these ancient perfume materials are the ones that truly fulfill that function. The old method of gathering labdanum is to herd goats among the bushes, their woolly coats gathering the resinous material. Labdanum is said to have a deep effect on the subconscious, calling forth memories and moods. Galbanum has a very similar but with a more "green" scent profile; it was highly valued by the ancient Eygptians who steeped ceremonial accessories into it.

Ferula gummosa and Cistus Creticus in the same place in my farm.

1.Ferula gummosa, from which galbanum comes.
2.Cistus Creticus,
from which labdanum comes


Perfume Review: Labdanum 18 by Le Labo

Katie Puckrik smells Labdanum 18 by Le Labo. Please subscribe!

New Scents Offer Essence of Donna

by Julie Naughton


NEW YORK — Donna Karan plans to mix things up at fragrance counters this fall.

That’s when Karan and her fragrance licensee, the Estée Lauder Cos., will launch Donna Karan Essence, a collection of four single-note fragrance oils intended to allow women to “be their own perfumers,” said Veronique Gabai-Pinsky, senior vice president and general manager of Donna Karan Cosmetics.

Karan says this latest project goes to the essence of her personality
“These are the oils that are close to my heart,” she told WWD during a recent phone interview about the collection, calling nature “the world’s best perfumer”

“I love oils — I’m oil-obsessed,” Karan said. “I really do think oils are the purest essences there are — unspoiled, untainted, luxurious.”

For the first Essence collection, Karan chose two notes that are probably familiar to consumers — lavender and jasmine — and two that probably aren’t, wenge and labdanum.

Wenge, a dark African wood with a spicy scent, is Karan’s favorite wood; since it isn’t distilled for fragrances, it has been recreated in the fragrance labs, noted Trudi Loren, vice president of corporate fragrance development worldwide for Donna Karan Cosmetics. Labdanum is a wild shrub found in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea; the resin of the plant, which is used in this fragrance, is a deep, intense scent, she added.

“I’d love to keep adding to the line, but this was the group that I had to start with,” said Karan “First of all, I am wenge-obsessed. It’s such a wonderful, warm, spicy scent. It takes you on a journey to Africa, just by smelling it. I have furniture made of it all over the place. Lavender is so calming, and I love the color Jasmine —there isn’t a person in the world who doesn’t love it. It’s intoxicating. And labdanum is so grounding and sensual.”

The Essence collection will be sold in several ways: as singular oils, eaux de toilette sprays, body lotions and candles, and also as a set of the four essences. Karan noted that the oils are particularly versatile: ''You can use them in the bath or a steam shower, rub them on your wrists or layer a couple of them on your body,” she said. “I play with them all the time — there are so many ways to use them.”

The oils, each packaged in an amber glass vial enclosed in a leather necklace pouch, are $90 for 0.25 oz. The eaux de toilette are each $165 for 3.3 oz., while the body lotions are $55 for 6.7 oz. Candles are $95 each, and the Essential Oil set is $185 for four 0.25-oz. vials.

In the U.S., the Donna Karan Essence lineup will be available in October at Neiman Marcus and Donna Karan freestanding stores. At launch, the brand will be in under 50 specialty store doors. While none of the executives would discuss sales targets or advertising and promotional spending, industry sources estimated that the line would do about $500,000 at retail in its first year on counter In-store sampling and co-op advertising are planned, added Diane Kim, vice president of global marketing for Donna Karan Cosmetics.


Scent Notes | Eau de Shalimar by Guerlain


By Chandler Burr

eau de shalimar

The “oriental” category of perfumes is basically defined as scents built on two materials, vanilla and labdanum. Vanilla is slightly problematic; the 1960s turned it into a sort of hippie cliché. Then there’s labdanum, a natural resin from a Mediterranean bush that smells quite strongly like a dock worker’s armpit. Shalimar, created in 1925 by the perfumer Jacques Guerlain, is historically one of the most important perfumes ever made as it is arguably the progenitor of the entire category of parfums gourmands (culinary perfumes). But Shalimar is also a true oriental, which means vanilla plus labdanum, and that in turn means that Guerlain faces the challenge of selling this great early 20th-century work of art in the 21st-century global marketplace.

What to do?

In 2004, Guerlain issued Shalimar Light by perfumer Mathilde Laurent, who brilliantly modernized the juice while keeping its soul. Guerlain has now unaccountably taken Light off the market and is launching an even more updated update, Eau de Shalimar, which debuts in two weeks. For the past week I’ve been wearing the 1925 on my right arm (to be precise, the 1925 perfume updated with new materials, as the original formula contained several ingredients that are no longer legal for allergy reasons) and the new 2008 on my left. When I held my left arm up to a middle-aged Pfizer executive he said, “Nice. I’d definitely buy that.” Right arm? “Old-fashioned.” But a 30-something Lehman Brothers guy loved the old-fashioned perfume. “Vanilla!” he said happily. He then smelled my left arm, frowning, “Yo, dude, after that first one, I can barely smell it.“

This may be a problem. Eau de Shalimar is, at least for the first 20 minutes or so, a case study in how to modernize a scent. While the 1925 version is a darkly lush mystery — the slightly musty hallways of exotic hotels — 2008 comes out of the bottle with the by-the-book bright citrus top note that young perfumers are being instructed to put on their commercial scents. (You can actually smell the creative directors taking aim at the 15-29 market demographic.) When Guerlain modernizes the oriental category untill the labdanum evaporates and the vanilla is soaked in lemon zest, does any of the Shalimar DNA remain? At moments, I’m not convinced; the drydown strikes me as far too hygienic and, yo, I can barely smell it. At others moments, it seems to work. At a recent lunch with an editor friend of mine, I offered my left (2008) arm. “Oh! I like that!” she said. Before I could present my other arm, she added, “You know, it reminds me of Shalimar.”



Ode to Oakmoss: Crabtree & Evelyn Ultra Moisturizing Body Butter

Posted by Michelle Krell Kydd.

A young Jean-Claude Ellena may have slept on a bed of oakmoss in his youth, but perfumistas everywhere can ditch the Proustian reverie and indulge in a delicate gossamer of refreshing Citrus and Oakmoss at will. The chypre undertone in Crabtree and Evelyn's Ultra Moisturizing Body Butter with Revitalizing Lemon and Coriander is an exquisite find in a product with a $32.50 price point. One would expect a quality creation like this to have come from the house of Annick Goutal, albeit in an objet d’art designed for Eau de Hadrien (before Oakmoss paranoia and bad science instigate the reformulation of this classic fragrance in 2010*).

The much maligned Oakmoss, which is the subject of a bitter regulatory debate in the European Union and The United States, defines the chypre category in fine fragrance. Its application in perfumery is akin to the use of yeast when making bread; without it you are left with is a mass of unrealized potential. Evernia prunastri lends an aquatic, woody and leatheric air to a fragrance, and is renowned for its fixative properties. Those who are not acquainted with the perfume arts do not realize how prevalent the material is in classic formulations they've grown up with. If the European Union and IFRA have their way, Oakmoss will be eliminated from all fragrances and a chapter in the history of perfumery will be irrevocably closed. Octavian Coifan, editor of 1000 Fragrances, has made a list of endangered fragrances. Read it and weep.

Oakmoss is the 33rd ingredient in a list of 43 ingredients that comprise Crabtree and Evelyn's Ultra Moisturizing Body Butter with Revitalizing Lemon and Coriander. The level of dilution is probably less than .1% (100 parts per million), an amount that is not known to cause skin irritation (this used to be the threshold for regulators, but things have gotten way out of hand as Luca Turin points out in the April edition of Duftnote). The balm softens when placed between the palms and is somewhat cool to the touch. Within minutes of application, a gentle veil of oakmoss rises up in the predominantly citrus mix. The aromatherapeutic effects are energizing and magical, something Glass Petal Smoke likens to the Fever Ray video of “When I Grow Up”.

Crabtree & Evelyn is currently running a 20% off special on their Ultra Moisturizing Body Butter with Revitalizing Lemon and Coriander. If there was ever a time to stock up, this would be it.

Notes:*IFRA Ammendment 43 restricts the use of various materials in fine fragrance. Regulations will be more stringent in 2010, and includes restrictions on the use of jasmine absolute, among others.



Le Labo arrives in Holland and I Sniff, Sniff, Sniff

Fragrance Bouquet
Posted by Divina

Few things can get me as excited as receiving news that a perfume line which thus far I'd only been able to read about longingly, has finally made it here and is available for sniffing! Le Labo can now be found here, at the fabulous brand new boutique of Skins Amsterdam (basically just next door from the old boutique at Runstraat 11, but bigger, better, fancier). Determined to not give myself olfactory fatigue and deciding there’s no rush to explore everything extensively at once since it is now so close by, I decided to focus on the perfumes I have been most curious about: Iris 39, Labdanum 18 and Ambrette 9. Yes, the road, the good intentions and all that: You can guess what I did next, can’t you? Yes, once inside the shop I actually sprayed the whole collection on blotters. I couldn’t help myself. Could you? Anyway. I was underwhelmed. “Is dat alles?” (Is this all there is?) as the Dutch song goes. I distracted myself with shiny make-up, potions, lotions and miracle-promising pots of this and that to give my nose a break and returned to the Le Labo counter to focus again on the three I originally came to sample, which -to give credit to the official note listing- were the ones that interested me most in the first round of sampling anyway. Ambrette 9 is lovely, powdery and baby soft and I would probably buy a bottle if I could actually smell it a little better. I don’t know if I am anosmic to some of the aromachemicals in the blend or what, but this is one of the very few (the second actually) perfumes to date that I struggle to smell. Yes, I can smell it when I first spray it on. Then I lose it and have to snort really, really close to find it again. There, close-up and personal I rediscover its sweet, soft appeal and I am left longing for more intensity. On me, this is definitely a skin-scent with absolutely no projection. I have to chase after it, always longing for that which I cannot have. It makes me sad and ever so slightly angry. Moving on, Iris 39 is my favorite of the whole lineup. It starts out with unmistakable buttery iris root but soon becomes spicy and intensely animalic. YUM. Super sexy in a buttoned-up, two-piece-and-killer-heels manner, this is a beauty and totally up my street. I really need to explore this further, to see if it is full-bottle-worthy.

Finally, Labdanum 18 is beautiful and gorgeous…BUT. It is nothing new. I sprayed this on my skin, sniffed and was able to name its twin instantaneously. I turned to the SA helping me and said: “This is gorgeous but it’s exactly the same as Musc Ravageur by Frederique Malle." She gave me the most stupendously surprised look: “You have a great nose! It was created by the same nose as Musc Ravageur! You recognized his signature.” I smiled politely and nodded, while thinking “What signature? This is the exact same composition! I could hardly fail to recognize that!”. Well, to be perfectly fair, it is not the exact same composition. Labdanum 18 is softer, rounder, cuddlier. I can’t really wear Musc Ravageur (even though I like it a lot), but I would gladly wear Labdanum 18. This however, does not change the fact that the two are twins indeed, with the formula just tweaked enough to be smoother, better blended. With the exception of Iris, I am not sure I am ready to part with my money just yet. But stay tuned, as I look forward to exploring this line more in the near future. And I am keeping my hopes up for the Vanilla Paris exclusive.

PS: I want that Olfactionary, also sold at Skins. Can’t afford it. Bummer.


History of perfumes (part 1)

ONCE UPON A TIME … (about labdanum).

In prehistoric (neolithic) North Africa there lived, amongst many peoples, a tribe of nomadic goat-herders. Occasionally, these people noticed that their goats acquired a blackish, sticky substance on their fleeces and eventually they realised that if this substance were removed and burned, it provided a very fragrant smoke.

As a brief aside it is worth mentioning that the use of aromatic materials as incense is the origin of perfumery and of aromatherapy. The word perfume itself comes from the Latin words per fumum, meaning through smoke.

Having lived in North Africa, not far from the Nile delta, I can appreciate what kind of impact a pleasant smell had on the people who lived there at that time. Even living with the benefits of hot water and soap one starts to smell like a cheese one or two hours after a shower. In summer the coolest time of day is in the middle of the night. Even then, with all windows open and movement restricted as near as possible to nil, the perspiration pours off as if one were in a sauna.

The value of a fragrant substance was apparent to our nomads and they isolated the origin of the black sticky stuff. The goats ‘collected’ it as they grazed among the rock roses (labdanum). It can’t have been long before the goats were removed from the equation. The invention of the ladanesterion, a flail with leather thongs later named after the plant by the Greeks, may have been the first technology to be related to aromatics. With it the nomads could flail the plants, the resin sticking to the thongs. From these it could be more conveniently squeeged off than it could from goats’ fleeces. (They actually used sand to separate the labdanum from the ladanesterion, the sand being easily removed later).

Naturally enough, the labdanum resin so collected was much in demand and the nomads eventually gave up goat herding to become labdanum traders. They were so successful in this that they became the first dynasty of Egypt. If you examine pictures of pharoahs or of Osiris (the imagery is largely interchangeable) you will see that the arms are crossed over the chest, one hand bearing a crook (a legacy of the goat-herding days), the other hand bearing a flail (ladanesterion). The pharoah wears a false beard (even if female!) actually made from goat hair which was evidently stuck to the chin using labdanum.

The importance of aromatics in antiquity is thrown into sharp relief when it is realised that that the humble rock rose is responsible for the iconic imagery so well known to us five thousand years later even if we have largely forgotten that the roots of this imagery are in incense (per fumum).

The oleoresin is obtained from various species of cistus , principally cistus ladaniferus, the best material being collected between May and July. It was Dioscorides who first mentioned the ladanesterion method of collection but the first written mention of labdanum as a modern medicine occurred in 1589 when it was listed in Dispensatorium Noricum. Its use as a medicine does seem to stretch back into antiquity though, because, although its principal uses were in incense and in the mummification process (along with the much better known frankincense and myrrh) there are ancient references to its use for liver and stomach problems as well as a remedy for breathing difficulties and for the loss of the hair.

*Ambergris is a pathological secretion of the sperm whale and was extensively used in former times as a fixer and toner for perfumes. While whaling is still carried out by Norwegian and Japanese barbarians it is very important for us not to use it. When whaling is a thing of the past, all ambergris appearing on the market will be ‘found’ and consequently usable.


Ancient treasures may point to Cleopatra's tomb

CBC News

Archeologists will begin excavating sites in Egypt this week in an attempt to uncover what is thought to be the tomb of Cleopatra, a queen of ancient Egypt, and her lover, Roman general Mark Antony.

The lovers committed suicide after their combined forces were defeated by Octavian in the naval battle of Actium more than two millennia ago.

Egypt's top archeologist on Sunday displayed what appears to be evidence that discovery of the lost tomb is at hand.

Zahi Hawass showed journalists 22 coins, 10 mummies, an alabaster head and a fragment of a mask with a cleft chin, objects found in the Temple of Taposiris Magna, 50 kilometres west of Alexandria.

The coins are inscribed with Cleopatra's name, archaeologists say.

Hawass also took journalists on a tour of the 2,000-year-old crumbling limestone temple near the Mediterranean Sea. Archaeologists hope to find the burial site of Queen Cleopatra and Mark Antony as they probe the shafts and tunnels under the temple.

The Roman historian Plutarch said Caesar allowed the two to be buried together, but their tomb was never found.

"We did a survey by radar for one month and the radar showed three important anomalies," Hawass said, adding it's hoped one of the chambers could be the tomb of the doomed lovers.

"If you look at the face of Mark Antony, many believed he had this cleft on his chin and that's why I thought this could be Mark Antony," said Hawass as he showed journalists the mask.

But he admitted archaeologists "are not sure 100 per cent" and joked that the mask could depict Richard Burton, the actor who played the Roman general in the 1963 movie Cleopatra,
co-starring Elizabeth Taylor.

Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, displays part of a mask archaeologists believe may have been that of Mark Antony at the Temple of Taposiris Magna.Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, displays part of a mask archaeologists believe may have been that of Mark Antony at the Temple of Taposiris Magna. (Amr Nabil/Associated Press)


Cleopatra: Cosmetiques, Perfumes & Poisons At the time Cleopatra VII reigned in Egypt, perfume making in Egypt was already a 3,000 year-old art. Her famous baths and workshop were allowed to flourish under the protection of Julius Ceaser and later by Mark Anthony. She was one of the wealthiest rulers of the time and infamous in her use of scent. According to legend, she would drift down the Nile on a barge that was enveloped in a cloud of perfume, her body glistening with rare and exotic oils, and the sails of her vessel were permeated with the seductive scents of rose, patchouli, and other aphrodisiacs. The materials most often used for perfume were: rose (especially favored by the Romans), lotus blossom, lily, honey, sweet flag, camel grass (lemongrass), lavender, saffron, cassia, nard (spikenard), cinnamon, myrtle, laurel, marjoram, costus root, ginger root, cardamom, labdanum, rosewood, cyperus, wormwood, fenugreek, balsam, galbanum, opoponax, styrax, orris root, myrrh, frankincense. Perfumes were based in oil or a combination of oil, honey and raisins. All of these ingredients are available to us today. Unguents are made by combining perfumed oil in a natural wax base. In the days of ancient Egypt, unguents were used to both perfume and protect the skin from the harsh sun and dry heat. One of the Cleopatra's beauty secrets was to bathe in scented milk. Natural milk contains proteins and lactic acid (which is itself an alpha hydroxy acid). These help soften and restore suppleness to the skin. After Anthony's demise and Roman intrigue and her suicide, just 30 years before the birth of Christ, the perfume trade was lost to the Egyptians. The Romans embraced scent and were noted for their excesses, and once in control of the trade routes they funneled the lucrative endeavor to Rome



Chanel - Coco Mademoiselle TV ads with Keira Knightley

Humbly Presenting the Chanel No. 5 Movie Storyboard

by Les Tuileries

As many of you would probably know by now I should have been reporting more frequently on many, many other topics. (Since I have offered a sneak preview of the latest Chanel No. 5 movie already.) But Hello Canada has just posted the storyboard so I might as well offer yet another preview.

Jeunet said Chanel's brief consisted of only three words: mystère, frisson, émotion. Judging by the storyboard below he did a fairly good job at meeting the ideals while maintaining his cinematic vision...

Once again, the film stars French actress Audrey Tautou and British model Travis Davenport and takes place on the Orient Express, en route from Paris to Istanbul.

The adventure begins as the heroine dashes towards the station to catch her train

She runs along the platform with seconds to spare before her life-changing journey begins

The camera focuses in the train, poised to set off

The guard's whistle means it's time to go

On board the train she passes a handsome stranger who's captivated by her scent

Later, unable to sleep, he is drawn by her perfume to the door of her cabin where he lingers a while...

The train continues on its journey across Europe through the night

As Audrey sleeps the light through her perfume bottle flickers on the wall

Perhaps she's dreaming of the handsome stranger?

On arrival in Istanbul the heroine captures a local scene on film

But look who shows up in the picture?

She arrives back at the station and her mystery man follows

Will this be the moment they finally meet?

For more information on the campaign please refer to my previous post on this topic. Once again the film will debut on May 5, 2009, 88 years after the launch of the iconic fragrance.

Photo and Storyboard: Hello Canada


Chanel No 5 The Film

Australian actress Nicole Kidman and Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro appeared in a two minute film (with 60 seconds of credits) promoting Chanel No. 5 perfume in 2004, a film directed by Baz Luhrmann, the director of Moulin Rouge.


Ayala Sender Releases Hanami Perfume Today

by Legerdenez

It all started with a poem: In March 2008, perfumer Ayala Sender was invited along with 14 other leading perfumers in the niche perfume industry to interpret a haiku-like poem by Ezra Pound, “In A Station of the Metro” for a project titled “Perfume In A Poem” Memory & Desire blog. One year later, Ayala Moriel releases the perfume at Blunda Aromatics in Los Angeles, in the 2nd of their 8-part Natural Botanical Perfume Exhibitions. “As I was reading the poem, I envisioned a perfume that is subtle and urbane: flowers and dusty dirt”, says Ayala. She drew on her olfactory experiences in the metro stations in New York and Montreal, and the cherry blossom boulevard in Burrard SkyTrain station, which is the heart of the Cherry Blossom Festival (Hanami) in Vancouver.

“The challenge was to create the feel of concrete, asphalt and metallic surroundings using natural aromatics only”, says Ms. Sender, who used Haitian vetiver, cabreuva oil, French Cassie and Oleander to create the feel of metal, wet wood and concrete. These serve as a backdrop for the cheerful lightweight floral notes of sakura, mimosa and magnolia, creating a perfume that is ever changing, ranging from “sweet floral notes in the sunshine to cool dampness of concrete and steel."

I wish I could have been there for the launch today. To learn more about Hanami click here.

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Why Easter is Greek to Me: Xristos Anesti!

By David Waters
April 8, 2007; 12:57 PM ET

The holy oil is then carefully dabbed with cotton balls provided by the church so you don’t leave there looking as if you’re ready to fry chicken with your face, and before you exit the church, you leave your cotton balls in a basket being held by altar boys, so as not to dispose of the holy oil in a less than holy place. The church burns the used cotton balls.

There have been times when I have left church with my cotton ball and have panicked when I am driving away. At home I take care of it. Imagine a grown woman burning cotton balls in her sink. But that is what I do.

Midnight Mass on Saturday night, going into Sunday morning is the Anastasi service. We will arrive at church at around 11 p.m., when it starts, and listen to the chanter as he chants in preparation for the service. My kids, dressed in their suits and having been awakened from a deep sleep to come to church, groggily sit and wait holding their candles with red cup wax catchers.

As the service progresses, the moment we have all been waiting for approaches. All the lights in the church are turned off. It is pitch black It is dead quiet. The priest takes one candle and lights his one candle from the one remaining lit altar candle, which represents the light of Christ’s love ( I believe).

From this one candle, the priest approaches the congregation and using his one candle he shares his light with a few people in the front pews. They in turn share their light with the people next to them and behind them. In quiet solemnity, we wait until the entire church is lit with only the light of candles, the light that has been created by one small flame has now created a room of shared light.

And at a moment that can only be described as glorious, the priest cries out, “Xristos Anesti!” “Christ is Risen!” We respond with “Alithos Anesti!” “Truly, He is Risen!” We sing our glorious Xristos Anesti song with the choir. That moment, which happens about an hour, to an hour and half into the service and seems as if the service is over, actually marks the beginning of the service. The service then continues for another hour and a half.

When I was a kid, after the service was over, we would go to the Anastasi Dinner that the church would throw in the church hall, where we would break our fast, drink Cokes at 2:30 in the morning, dance to a raucous Greek band and not go home until our stomachs were full of lamb, eggs, Koulouraki, and we saw the sun rise. Or was it the Son rise?

But usually now, after Midnight Mass, we drive home with our still-lit candles. I always love seeing the looks on peoples faces as they pull up to our car seeing a family with lit candles calmly moving at 65 m.p.h. down the highway. When we get home, we crack eggs, eat cookies, drink hot chocolate (so not Greek) and I burn a cross into our doorways with the carbon from the candle smoke to bless our house for the year.

There have been many times when painters touching up the house have wondered why there was this strange black cross burned into our doorways. The next day is usually followed by a late sleep in, then getting up and doing the same thing you just did but in the daytime at the Easter Picnic, usually held at a local park.

I have to say, the Greeks know how to do Easter. Make no mistake. This is the most important holiday in our church. It is a beautiful week. I haven’t even begun to touch on what the week is really like. This is a sampling of a sampling of what it is like. It is so much more deep, so much richer than I have written here.

But one thing is clear. It is a powerful, beautiful, mysterious, humbling, healing and moving week. It is filled with tradition and ritual. It is about renewal and faith. And even though it is still too early to say, Xristos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!

Actress Rita Wilson, whose mother and father both were born in Greece, is widely credited with landing Nia Vardalos a movie deal for "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Wilson and her actor husband Tom Hanks had their own "Big Fat Greek Wedding" in 1988. They have two children.



The Saviour by El Greco,
1604-1614, El Greco Museum at Toledo, Spain

The song leader stands before the congregation and announces the number of the next hymn. As you turn the pages, you quickly realize that you know the song—"Jesus, Rose of Sharon." But if you are anything like most of the people singing, truth be told, you do not know what the term "Rose of Sharon" means. So, what does it mean?

This may come as a shock, but the phrase is used only once in the entire Bible, and it does not refer to Jesus. In Song of Solomon 2:1, Solomon’s wife describes herself as the "rose of Sharon." From her description, we can see that it is a complimentary term that expresses beauty.

The word Sharon (also spelled Saron) means a level place or plain, and is found in numerous verses in the Bible, including Acts 9:35 and 1 Chronicles 27:29. In God’s Word, the term is used to describe one of the largest plains in all of the land of Palestine. You can locate this valley by looking just north of the city of Joppa on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

From what we know about the place, the Sharon valley was a fertile plain that was home to many beautiful flowers. Isaiah 35:2 lists Sharon in a context discussing blooming plants and describes the valley as "excellent." Sharon was renowned for its majesty and beauty, but what about its "rose?"

A true rose, like the one sweethearts exchange on Valentine’s day, is probably not what the Bible calls the "rose of Sharon," since these flowers are very uncommon in Palestine. In fact, although no one can say for certain which flower is the actual "rose of Sharon," many scholars think the best guess is the cistus (also known as the rock-rose). The cistus blooms in various parts of the land of Palestine, and in ancient times was known for its soothing aroma and pain-relieving qualities.

No one knows for sure when or why the term "rose of Sharon" was given to Jesus. But some reasons do make good sense. Christ’s healing powers and pain-relieving actions were similar to certain traits of the rock-rose. Is it any wonder that the "Great Physician," Who came to physically heal the sick and spiritually take away the plague of sin from the world, should be given the name of a flower known for its sweet aroma and pain-relieving qualities?

Cistus Creticus "Rose of Sharon": In the season of Bible it produced labdanum in the region of Jerusalem.



This week (13-19of April 2009 ) is the so called Megali Evdomada, Great Week, which is Easter Week for all Greek Orthodox people. Anyone that has spent this week in Greece will have noticed that it is the most important holiday of the year. This year the Good Friday is on the 17th of April and the Easter Sunday on the 19th of April 2009.

Many Orthodox fast before Easter, and are not allowed to eat various foods such as meat, butter, milk as well as olive oil for the last few days. Then they will go to a priest for confession, and are so allowed to partake in the Holy Communion.

The actual Easter festival begins on Good Friday and people go to the churches to see how the priests and monk's take down the icon of Christ off the cross, wrap it in linen and put it in a great casket covered in flowers symbolizing the tomb of Christ. Then the bier is taken through the town or village, with people lamenting the death of Christ.

On Saturday everyone goes to church late in the evening, carrying with them unlit candles. At midnight the priest announces the resurrection of Christ ("Christos anesti") and lets the people light their candles of the Holy Flame taken from Christ's nativity cave in Jerusalem. As everybody does this fireworks and crackers go off and the dark night is filled with light from the candles. After this, everybody goes home for a meal - the fast is over. If their candles are still burning, a cross is made in the doorway with the soot, to protect the house for the coming year.

On Easter Sunday friends and family gather in homes, eating lamb on the spit and dyed eggs. Before the red eggs are eaten, however, you must crack them against your neighbours, and whoever wins by having a whole egg at the end, will get all the luck.
Many places in Greece celebrate Easter in their own way. A few examples:

On Corfu the patron saint Spyridonis celebrated. His body, that has not decomposed, is carried around and is believed to perform miracles. On Easter Saturday ceramic pots are thrown out of people's windows to throw away Evil.

On Paros children act as Jesus' disciples and perform the Last Supper, the walk of Golgota and and Crucifixion.

On Patmos twelve monks act as the apostles, and the Father Superior clean their feet in the square on Easter Thursday.

On Crete, as well as in any places around Greece, a doll is made of old clothes from each house hold and burned symbolizing the burning of Judas.

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