Spring Cleaning - March 1, 2021

Where does the tradition of "Spring Cleaning" come from?

March 5, 2021
Figure standing on side of mountain with arms outstreatched

Spring Cleaning - March 1, 2021

Where does the tradition of "Spring Cleaning" come from?

March 5, 2021

"Out of clutter, find simplicity,

From discord, find harmony.

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity."

~Albert Einstein

Alexander Jewish Family Service Friends – 

This time of year I always hear my mother’s voice echoing in my head that it is time for “Spring cleaning”. This year, I started to wonder where this tradition comes from.

Some researchers trace the origin of spring cleaning to the Iranian Nowruz, the Persian new year, which falls on the first day of spring. Iranians continue the practice of khaneh tekani (Persian: خانه‌تکانی; literally "shaking the house") just before the Persian new year. Everything in the house is thoroughly cleaned, from the drapes to the furniture.

Traditionally, the Catholic church thoroughly cleans the church altar and everything associated with it on Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday, in the Spring. Spring cleaning persists today in Greece, and other Orthodox nations. It is traditional to clean the house thoroughly either right before or during the first week of Great Lent, which is referred to as Clean Week. This also often corresponds with the Julian New Year, or April 1.

Another possibility has been suggested that the origins of spring cleaning date back to the ancient Jewish practice of thoroughly cleansing the home in anticipation of the springtime festival of Passover (Pesach). In remembrance of the Israelites' hasty flight from Egypt following their captivity there, during the week-long observance of the Passover holiday, there are strict prohibitions against eating or drinking anything which may have been leavened or fermented (Exodus 12:15, 19). Jews are not only supposed to refrain from leavened foodstuffs (chametz), they are expressly commanded to rid their homes of even small remnants of chametz for the length of the holiday (Exodus 12:15). Therefore, observant Jews conduct a thorough "spring cleaning" of the house, followed by a traditional hunt for chametz crumbs (bedikat chametz) by candlelight on the evening before the holiday begins.

Whatever the reason – whether you participate for religious or practical reasons – perhaps it’s possible to add another element to the process. Maybe this year while we are scrubbing and cleaning we can also take a few minutes to look inward.

Molly Friedenfeld, author of The Book of Simple Human Truths, says:

“It may be difficult, but there will be times we need to pick up our brooms and do some spiritual house cleaning. It is through this process that we find our true relationships, our true heart, our core integrity, and our life’s purpose.”

There are undoubtedly times for many of us when the amount of work to be done seems overwhelming and it becomes hard to get started. At times like that, it can be useful to remember the words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who said:

“Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.”

With all these things -- whether it is cleaning the house or looking inward to do some spiritual cleaning -- both have to be done with a sense of compassion, an acceptance of imperfection and a sense of humor. So, with that in mind, I will end with this wonderful quote that I was not able to find an attribution to an author:

“Our house is clean enough to be healthy, and dirty enough to be happy.”

I wish for you that your office, home and mind is clean enough to be healthy and messy enough to be happy. Well that’s what I think.

Thanks for listening,
Carl Josehart's signature

Carl E. Josehart, MSW (he/him/his)

Chief Operating Officer

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