Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring Cleaning—Not an April Fools’ Tale

Yes, a history of spring cleaning exists.  Dating back about 3,000 years ago in Persia, spring cleaning began as a ritual of the Persian New Year which was usually March 21st, the first day of Spring.  The traditions and rituals continue today, but it is now known as the Iranian Norouz.  The practice of “Khooneh tekouni,” which means “shaking the house” is the first Spring Cleaning ritual. Everything that can be is taken outside and shaken and cleaned.  Inside, the floors and walls are all washed.  Fresh flowers are brought in for good fortune for the new year.

Around the first century, as a remembrance of the Jews’ flight from Egypt and to prepare for the feast of Passover, the home was thoroughly cleaned. In accordance with the prohibition of eating leavened bread, or “chametz,” the spring cleaning was followed by a traditional hunt for crumbs by candlelight on the eve of the holiday.

Scotland has its Hogmanay, but that falls on Dec 31st, and China has its Chinese Lunar New Year in February.  Both traditions require a thorough cleaning of the home.

In North America and some European countries, March was the best time for spring cleaning because you could open the windows, let the wind help a bit, but you did not have to worry about insects invading. (You couldn’t say that this year!)  Prior to the invention of the vacuum cleaner (c. 1910), women took their rugs outside and beat them with rug beaters made of rattan or wire.

Then there’s the psychological point of view that says we begin getting more sunlight, thus have more energy.  We take our eyes off the computer or television and see the winter’s dust. Or, perhaps it is a biological response to sunlight. The more natural sunlight exposure, the less the pineal gland produces melatonin, the sleepiness hormone.

So, get outside and enjoy that sunlight, then throw open the doors and windows and clean. Need help getting started? Check out the Reader’s Resource Guide “Spring Cleaning Time” and the display of books in the circulation area of the Main Library.  Clearing the clutter, reorganizing, and cleaning tips are all covered.

Earth day is just around the corner, so as you clean, don’t forget: Recycle!

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