Apparently it’s ‘officially’ been spring since 1 March, not that you’d have noticed due to the cold, wind and rain that made most of March feel more like autumn. However, with warmer weather catching up to us now it’s beginning to feel a lot like pre-summer, so I thought I’d share a story with you – the story of the origins of the ‘spring clean’. It’s something we say almost automatically at this time of year when we’re clearing out old clutter from our homes and offices, and when we’re cleaning up the grime that’s built up on our windows over the long wet winter months. But do you know why this time of year is so connected with cleaning? I certainly didn’t, so I did a little digging and this is what I found.

The 20th Century – pride 

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the spring clean was a product of the house-proud housewife of the mid-twentieth century because in the post-war years of the 1950s and ’60s, with higher incomes, more security and access to greater consumer choice, the home became the focus of many in society. The latest gadgets, dinner parties, cleaning equipment and chemicals. People judged and were judged on the cleanliness of their homes and the media made us all believe that a clean home was a proud home – in order to sell us lots of products, of course. But the origins of the spring clean lie further back in time than this.

The 18th and 19th Centuries – necessity 

Before electricity became the widespread source of light and heat in our homes we used to burn things – coal and wood for our fires to keep us warm and oil in our lanterns to light up our rooms. All this produced lots of smoke and soot. Of course, the months when light and heat was in most demand were the winter months, so it made sense for ‘the staff’ to have a good top to bottom clean of the home or office in the springtime to clear all the muck out that was produced in the preceding dark and cold period. But this was not the origin of the spring clean either.

The 10th Century onwards – tradition 

In Greek Orthodox tradition the first day of Lent is known as Clean Monday, on which members of the community have, in times gone by, been encouraged to physically clean out their homes alongside the spiritual cleansing they are expected to go through in the weeks leading up to Easter.

1,000 BCE – festivities 

There is an ancient festival celebrated in communities throughout Asia, the origin of which can be traced back to Iran, and it’s called the Festival of Nowruz. This may have been based on the stories or practices of other religions or communities in the area, but essentially it has come to be known as the Persian New Year. On this day at the end of March, the community is expected to clean their homes – to ‘shake the house’ – a biblical spring clean.

2,000 BCE – religion 

There is a possibility, due to proximity, that the Festival of Nowruz could have been inspired by a far older tradition, that of the Hebrews, the Jewish communities of the era living in Western Asia, who even today practice the traditions of Pesach, the Passover, to celebrate their liberation from bondage in Egypt. In this celebration, families clean their homes of all leaven bread and foods (items containing yeast) and even the smallest crumb must be removed from the home, hence the need for a spring clean each March or April (because the Jewish and Christian calendars are slightly different, Pesach can fall on different dates each year).

3,000 BCE and before – DNA 

Or is it just in our very nature? We may not hibernate throughout winter, but we do spend an awful lot more time indoors, giving us plenty of opportunity to increase the muckiness of our homes and workplaces. And when the sun does come out and we get out more we notice the musty smell and the dust flying around when we return. Maybe it’s always been that way, that with the change of seasons comes the desire to start afresh, with a clean slate.

If your spring cleaning includes the windows in your office, warehouse or residential block, then contact London Window Cleaners today, the high-rise window cleaning specialists, on 020 3954 2900.


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