The Ancient History of Spring Cleaning
In case you’re not as obsessed with the change of seasons as we are… it’s officially time for spring cleaning. Some may dread it, some look forward to it as a cathartic cleaning experience but regardless, it’s here and it’s a tradition that dates way waaaay back.
So what’s the truth behind spring cleaning’s beginnings? And how far does it go back in time?
We did some digging and found that Spring Cleaning has roots in a couple of old traditions dating back to ancient times, up to 3000 years b.c.
Before we get into the ancientness of it all… here’s a quick modern definition of spring cleaning, just to catch everyone up:
It’s the time to go absolutely clean crazy on everything you own. It’s a thorough domestic clean of your entire home from top to toe and boy do we mean that. Everything is going to be spotless, and those areas you normally ignore and cheekily think, ‘hmmmm… maybe next time’, they’re officially in the spotlight.
And just in case you’re lacking the inspiration or work more effectively in a checklist way, here’s some places to clean that are typically on our list:
- Washing machine drums
- The ins and outs of an oven
- The coffee machine
- Mattresses and pillows
- Dishwashing filters
- On top of cupboard and around skirtings
- Range hood grills
- Dreaded windows
- Heating and AC filters
- Beneath carpets
So what are the origins of spring cleaning? It’s not totally certain but there are definitely a few sources of inspiration.
The Ancient Iranian Festival of Nowruz:
Also known as the Persian New Year, the Festival of Nowruz commences on the vernal equinox, otherwise known as the first day of Spring in Iran (March 21st).
Iranians still practise “khooneh tekouni” or “shaking the house” prior to Nowruz. This ritual house clean up is super similar to spring cleaning, where the entire home is thoroughly wiped and polished.
The Jewish Tradition of Spring Cleaning:
Some research has traced the origins of spring cleaning to the ancient Jewish custom of thoroughly cleaning the house in preparation for the springtime feast of Passover (usually around April). Jewish people are traditionally bound to avoid leavened food throughout the entire holiday. Even the tiniest of “chametz” crumbs count. That’s why conscientious Jews carry a thorough spring clean of their entire home.
Spring Cleaning and Catholic Traditions:
According to Catholic customs, the Church altar is thoroughly wiped on Maundy Thursday, right before Good Friday, along with all its surroundings.
The Greek Orthodox Church encourages spring cleaning on the first day of Lent, known as Clean Monday. This corresponds to the Julian New Year on April 1st. Cleaning altars may not be the exact definition of spring cleaning, but it is understandable why it could have led to annual domestic cleaning throughout Christian communities.
Spring Cleaning's Roots and Chinese Traditions:
Prior to the Chinese New Year, Chinese celebrate the holiday of Ninyabaat. Festivities usually start on the 28th day of the 12th month of the Lunar calendar.
“Wash away the dirt on Ninyabaat” – is a Cantonese saying.
The essence of this tradition encourages cleaning bad luck and misfortune out of your home along with tossing rubbish and broken items. Traditional Buddhist and Taoist homeowners honour statues and altars prior to the Chinese New Year. Old altar ornaments are either thoroughly wiped or replaced with fresh decorations.
During our research we also found out that Spring Cleaning is also intrinsically linked to our human biology… who would’ve known.
We are less active and motivated during the cold winter days and there’s an interesting biological reason for that. As a species, humans are bound to the cycle of seasons.
Due to the lack of sunlight during cold, dark winter days (shoutout to Melbourne), our brain produces larger amounts of melatonin – a chemical responsible for literally making us sleepier and less active.
Melatonin levels are bound to the amount and frequency of sunlight exposure we get. The more time we spend outside, the less we produce the hormone of sleepiness. So when Spring Cleaning is upon us, we’re actually waking up a little bit from our melatonin-induced slumbers, (hopefully) ready to tackle cleaning fresh and new.