Homesteading 101: The Origins of Spring Cleaning

Do you ever feel pressured to pull on a pair of rubber gloves and get down and dirty in the springtime? For many people (mostly women), spring weather means it’s time to thoroughly clean the house from top to bottom. However, do you know how the ritual cleaning routine started?

Spring cleaning is something unique to cultures that developed in climates with cold winters. Historians have traced the practice back to the Iranian Norouz, the Persian new year, which happens to fall on the first day of spring. In Iran, residents continue the tradition by practicing “khooneh tekouni” which translates to “shaking the house”. During this time, everything is thoroughly cleaned, including the drapes and furniture.

The Scotts have similar traditions around their new year holiday, which is called Hogmanay and happens on December 31st. The practice is widespread in Ireland, New Zealand and even North America.

While most historians agree that the practice was started by Iranians, some think it was actually ancient Jewish people that began the tradition during the memorial feast of Passover, which happens in the spring. During the holiday, there are strict regulations on eating and drinking anything ermented with yeast. They are also expressly commanded to rid their homes of small remnants of chametz, which is any type of leavened foodstuff. Therefore, observant Jews must carefully go through their house removing all chametz crumbs. This practice may have been the beginning of spring cleaning.

The ritual of spring cleaning continues in North America and northern Europe where it adds value to the life of inhabitants because of their wet climates. In America, before the invention of the vacuum cleaner, March was known as the best time for dusting because it was warm enough to open windows and doors, but not warm enough for insects to be out. The winds common in the spring season helped to carry dust out of the house. Modern homeowners also enjoy cleaning in March because airing out cleaning fumes is made easier when insects aren’t a problem.

So now that you know the history of spring cleaning, you can go forth in your quest to rid your house of clutter and dirt knowing that your urge to purge has a purpose other than to make you dread the spring.

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