Where Did Spring Cleaning Originate?
Although this annual cleansing has no precise date in history that researchers have discovered, the tradition traces back to early Jewish, Christian, Iranian, and Chinese customs.
In Judaism, spring cleaning became established due to its relationship to Passover. During Passover, Jewish families eat bread without yeast, called “matzah” in Hebrew. Matzah is consumed during this holiday as a symbolic reminder of the subjugation their ancestors had to overcome. Keeping leavened bread (chametz), or any bread made with yeast, is considered arrogant and ungrateful. Thus, the concept of deep cleaning to remove said negativities became an annual tradition.
In Christianity, the tradition of Spring Cleaning was brought forth by Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday, which is set exactly 46 days before Easter each year, kicks off the “season of spiritual refreshing”, called Lent. Lent is another tradition that focuses on symbolism. Christians fast certain foods on specific days during this season to aid the process of cleansing their spirit. While this holiday began as a more inward-facing cleanse, if you have ever done a massive deep clean of your home, you know the rewarding and uplifting feeling you get when it is all said and done!
In Iranian culture, the new year, Nowruz begins on March 21st, and celebrations last for two weeks. Iranians prepare for this “New Day” by cleaning or Khāne-takānī meaning “shaking the house.” During the annual celebration, a ritual of burning and planting symbolizes an optimistic and purified new season. Iranians hold hands and jump over bonfires, cleanse their houses of negative energy, and exchange small gifts with their loved ones.
Similarly, Chinese culture has a ritual performed in preparation for the new year. By thoroughly cleaning one’s house, they rid themselves of the bad luck from the previous year. In traditional Chinese culture, cleaning is only allowed before the clock hits midnight, and cleaning is forbidden during the celebration of the Lunar New Year. The word ‘dust’ in Chinese is a homophone for ‘old’, therefore cleaning is symbolic of ridding oneself of old bad luck allowing for a fresh start.
In American culture, spring is often tightly associated with Daylight Savings time. During the winter, days are shorter and darker, which leads to the increased secretion of melatonin in our bodies. This causes us to feel sleepier or more tired, and thus cleaning – especially deep cleaning – gets put aside. As the days become longer and the exposure to sunlight warms our bodies, the melatonin hibernation comes to its end, and we use our new energy to liven up our comfort spaces.