Distaff Day – January 7, 2022

Distaff Day or Roc Day is an annual celebration held on January 7, and we are so ready to rock this one. This day celebrates the distaff and what it symbolized during medieval times, namely the efforts and work of women in textile to society. A distaff is a tool used in spinning to hold the wool or flax before spinning it onto the spindle, and it keeps the fibers untangled and makes the entire spinning process easier. 

History of Distaff Day

We all love the soft and soothing feel of cotton and woolen clothes on our bodies, especially during the winter season when the cold seeps into our bodies and we wear clothes for warmth. But really, the history of making clothes as we know it today is rich, and at the forefront of its evolution is a simple but important tool called the distaff. A distaff is a tool used for holding unspun fibers, and women would freely wrap the fibers around it.

Distaff Day takes root in the old tradition where women returned to their regular household chores 12 days after Christmas. Distaff Day is also about commemorating and celebrating women’s work in the home. Spinning was very important in European traditions and throughout history. Today, spinning has become more of a hobby than a house chore. The different types of distaff include the basic distaff, which is simply a smooth stick, Russian-style distaffs, which are more decorative and board-like in shape.

Before the spinning wheel was invented in 1533, women used the distaff and the spindle to spin wool fibers or flax. A common method of handling a distaff was holding it under the arm when spinning or attaching it to a designated spinning wheel. The use of a distaff and spinning wheel slowly became acknowledged as exclusive to women and a symbol of the maternal side of the family. Writers like Chaucer and Shakespeare also lavishly used the word ‘distaff’ in their works, popularizing the symbolism.  

Distaff Day timeline

30000 B.C.
First Clothes

The first clothes are made with animal skins and fur, leaves, and grass.

1000 A.D.
Origin of the Distaff

The word ‘distaff’ originates from Low German and means “a bunch of flax connected with a staff.”

1648
St. Distaff Day Poem

Robert Herrick composes a poem about the antics of Distaff Day in his collection of poems titled “Hesperides.”

1790
Fates Sculpture

Gottfried Schadow makes a sculpture depicting three women spinning with a distaff.

Distaff Day FAQs

Why is Distaff Day called Rock Day?

Distaff Day is also often referred to as Roc Day or Rock Day. In some Northern European languages, ‘roc’ or ‘rock’ means “distaff.”

How is a distaff used?

A distaff is an instrument used to spin fibers into flax or wool for threading. The spinner held the distaff under the arm as she unwound the fibers loosely wrapped around it onto a spindle in the other hand.

Where did the word ‘distaff’ originate?

It originates from an Old English word ‘stӕff,’ meaning “staff,” and ‘dis,’ which means a “bundle of flax.” The word was first used around 1000 A.D.

Distaff Day Activities

  1. Try out spinning

    Using a distaff and spinning system may seem ancient, but we are celebrating, aren’t we? Spinning the flax or wool to make yarn with a distaff is certainly a fun thing to do.

  2. Read about the distaff

    Just like you’re doing right now, which is so awesome, read up about the distaff and its uniqueness — knowledge about random topics like this sets you apart.

  3. Teach someone

    As a way of celebrating Distaff Day, we encourage you to teach someone how to use the distaff. It is also an opportunity to flaunt your skills and showcase what you have done using the tool.

5 Facts About Distaff Day

  1. Distaff also means female

    The word ‘distaff’ refers to the female side of the family, as in “the distaff part of the family.”

  2. Symbolizes the female domain

    At one time, spinning flax and wool was the main work of women, and they got back to it after the 12-day Christmas celebrations ending on Epiphany or January 6.

  3. Some call it Saint Distaff Day

    Distaff Day is sometimes referred to as St. Distaff Day, regarded as a medieval joke.

  4. Predominantly used by women

    The distaff is associated more with women as they often used it as a pastime when they met each other.

  5. Shakespeare popularized it

    In the sixteenth century, William Shakespeare’s books popularized ‘distaff’ as a word to refer to women.

Why We Love Distaff Day

  1. It helps us appreciate clothing

    The distaff is one of the fundamental pieces of equipment women used in clothing and textile making for most of the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. As such, it serves as an irrefutable tool in clothes-making history. This day helps us appreciate the beauty of fashion and the effort that goes into making it.

  2. It lends credence to women’s efforts

    Distaff Day reminds us of women’s huge contribution to society and the business of clothing and fashion.

  3. It promotes skillfulness and innovation

    To use the distaff, you need consistent practice, as portrayed in the skill with which women spun beautiful threads and yarn from wool and flax. Distaff Day promotes that skillfulness and the ability to open oneself to innovative things and versatility.

Distaff Day dates

YearDateDay
2021January 7Thursday
2022January 7Friday
2023January 7Saturday
2024January 7Sunday
2025January 7Tuesday

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