The long, cold winter nights are over, and thanks to the natural light, we can finally see the filth that’s been hidden in our homes for months. (Anyone else get piles of travel insurance booklets everywhere?) It’s a tradition in many households to have a good clear-out during springtime, but who do we have to blame (or thank) for the spring clean? Well, we don’t actually know who started it, but I can tell you about three different cultures that could be responsible for the yearly clear-out (and therefore responsible for my guilt about the lack of my yearly clear-out.)
In Iran, New Year falls on March 21st, which is the day of the vernal equinox on the solar-based calendar. The New Year celebrations last for two weeks, and during that time they take part in the ritual known as Khouneh Tekouni, which has been celebrated for over 3,000 years.
The phrase literally translates to “shaking the house”. The phrase does live up to its name, as families’ clean, scrub and dust their homes until they are gleaming. It’s not until every inch of the house is clean that families and communities can relax and fully enjoy the New Year festivities.
Egypt (kind of)
Spring cleaning is also a big part of Jewish culture. During the spring festival of Passover, Jewish people from around the world commemorate the liberation of Israelites from Egyptian slavery. As a symbol of their remembrance, families will eat unleavened bread (bread without yeast) as that is what the slaves were given during their captivity.
It is seen as an insult to God if any leavened bread (bread with yeast) is in the house, so a deep clean takes place to make sure that not even a small crumb is left within the home.
The Chinese spring cleaning ritual is much like the Iranians, as they clean their homes in anticipation of the New Year, which is celebrated on February 19th. However, the reason families in China clean their houses before the New Year celebrations is to get rid of any bad luck that has built up during the year! (Symbolically, of course; if only it was that easy.)
Once the family home is sparkling clean, a ban is put in place against sweeping, so the forthcoming year’s good fortune can be collected within the house. I don’t like to sweep just after New Year’s either. Probably for different reasons though.