Spring cleaning has been a part of human history for over three thousand years. Its exact origin is not clear, but it is a tradition that still exists today. In fact it has become a part of our everyday language. Today someone might use the term “spring cleaning” in reference to a significant cleaning effort or a major reorganization.
- One possibility for the origin of spring cleaning is the Persian cleaning ahead of their New Year celebration, known as Nowruz. Their new year began on the spring equinox for the northern hemisphere. While most pre-existing holidays disappeared after the arrival of Islam, this holiday is still celebrated today. In addition to spring cleaning, people typically purchase new clothed and flowers to prepare for Nowruz.
- Another possible origin is that it first began with the Jewish practice of cleaning the home ahead of Passover. During Passover they do not consume anything leavened or fermented. In addition, they are not allowed to have anything fermented or leavened within their home. Therefore it was necessary to do a thorough cleaning to remove any crumbs of leavened food that might be hiding in cracks and crevices.
- When the new religion of Christianity originated, spring cleaning became a part of the first three days after Palm Sunday. The altar is typically cleaned on Holy Thursday, the day before Good Friday in the Catholic Church.
- In the pioneer days of North America, practical reasons made spring was the best time for cleaning. The weather was starting to get warmer, so inhabitants could open their windows without freezing. It was still early in the year and insects like mosquitoes and flies would not be a significant problem like they would be during summer or fall. Wind speed is usually higher in early spring so this would help blow dust out of homes.
- For those who heated their homes with coal, spring was an excellent time for cleaning. The need for burning coal during the winter had ended, so they could remove soot from walls and they would stay clean until autumn.
Today the concept of spring cleaning is still with us, for the same reasons pioneer Americans found it logical. Fortunately, we now have screens on our windows to keep insects out.