Ahh, Spring. A time of renewal, of re-birth. A time of discovering all the things that were hidden beneath the snow, like that shoe that I threw to get the dog’s attention when she wouldn’t come inside sometime in January. In her defense, she’s old and can’t hear very well.
But there is also this practice known as Spring Cleaning. A time of clearing away the clutter and deep cleaning the house. As a child you may have been drafted to help in some way. You may have thought this was a punishment of sorts. Guess what? Your mom did not invent Spring cleaning.
Spring Cleaning is much, much older than you think.
The practice is thought to date back to the Iranian Norouz , pronounced No-Rooz, which falls on the first day of spring. Norouz is the Persian New Year and has been celebrated for over 3,000 years. Even in Iran today, they practice “khooneh tekouni”, literally translated as “shaking the house”. Prior to Norouz, the entire house is cleaned from top to bottom. From draperies to carpets to furniture, everything gets a good cleaning.
Another possibility for the practice of spring cleaning is thought to date back to the Jewish celebration of Passover. For 3,500 years it has been the practice, just prior to Passover, to clean the entire house. This is done partly to get rid of any unleavened bread, called chametz, which are forbidden foods during this period. Typically Jewish families will hunt for any possible leftover chametz crumbs the night before Passover.
Later in history many Eastern Orthodox Churches devoted a week of cleaning either right before or during the week of Lent. In fact, the entire first week of Lent in the Eastern Orthodox Church is referred to as Clean Week and, although this refers to making oneself more pure by the leaving behind of sinful attitudes, it also is accompanied by a thorough cleaning of the home as well.
Is it just me, or is there a theme here? It would appear that the act of spring cleaning has its roots very deeply set in most of the major world religions. Spring Cleaning is based on an act of faith. A tradition that goes back thousands of years, going hand in hand with purifying oneself and one’s surroundings.
Personally I am fond of the phrase, “khooneh tekouni” (although I confess, I was unable to find a pronunciation for this). Shaking the house. Who couldn’t use a good house shaking?