Home / Retirement Living / Ageing in place / “Spring Cleaning” – The history behind the practice

“Spring Cleaning” – The history behind the practice

It is officially Spring! This means for many that it is time for a good ol’ spring clean. The ritual of spring cleaning, in many cultures, provides a fresh start as we enter the season of new beginnings. But where did this tradition come from?

Some researchers trace the origin of spring cleaning to the Iranian Nowruz, the Persian new year, which falls on the first day of spring. The Persian New Year, like in most cultures, signifies new beginnings. The ritual, “khooneh takouni” which means “shaking the house” has been a customary activity performed by Iranians looking to turn over a new leaf and refresh their homes. Undergoing a complete house cleaning allows for the New Year to start off on the right foot. Everything in the house is thoroughly cleaned, from the curtains to the furniture.

Another possibility has been suggested that the origins of spring cleaning date back to the ancient Jewish practice of thoroughly cleansing the home in anticipation of the springtime festival of Passover. In remembrance of the Israelites’ hasty flight from Egypt following their captivity there, during the week-long observance of the Passover holiday, there are strict prohibitions against eating or drinking anything which may have been leavened or fermented with yeast (Exodus 12:15, 19). Jews are not only supposed to refrain from leavened foodstuffs (known in Hebrew as חמץ chametz), they are expressly commanded to rid their homes of even small remnants of chametz for the length of the holiday (Exodus 12:15). Therefore, observant Jews conduct a thorough “spring cleaning” of the house, followed by a traditional hunt for chametz crumbs by candlelight (called bedikat chametz [Hebrew: בדיקת חמץ]) on the evening before the holiday begins.

The “Spring Cleaning” custom found an especially practical value in the wet and cold climates of North America and Northern Europe. During the 1800s, March was often the best time for dusting as it was getting warm enough to open windows and doors, but not warm enough for insects to be a problem. This also was the time of year when coal furnaces would stop running, therefore you could wash all the soot from the walls and furniture left by the furnace.

Luckily enough for us modern cleaning products, equipment and heating choices make spring cleaning a lot more manageable!

If you want to do a good spring clean, but don’t know where to start – head to Eldernet and enlist the help of experts!

About Eve Williams

Eve Williams is the Content Developer and Social Media Administration for Eldernet. She is currently studying towards her Masters at the University of Canterbury. She has a passion for learning new things.