Astar’s Blog – Traditions of the past…

I said to myself the other day, ‘what is this ‘thing’ that has you leaping all over the house?’

It’s the spring and it’s a grand thing to know that finally after weeks and weeks of damp colourless days, there is finally light and warmth just around the corner and my serotonin levels are on the rise.  To be honest it’s a marvelous thing to say goodbye and winter be gone.  Do you know the words to the song, ‘for every season there is a reason and a time to every purpose…?’ 

What was my reason and to what purpose was it that had me embark on the annual spring clean?  As I worked myself into a lather sweeping, beating and giving this house a damn good shaking I kept asking – why?

As a girl, everyone in the district did it.  Was it something in the air or a full moon – what? But I remember doors and windows being flung open. Brooms beating carpets, mattresses hauled out into the sun and every cupboard and draw emptied and things sorted or stuff biffed and Mum emerging exhausted at the end of it.  A bit of a queer occurrence really!

Is it an unspoken customary habit or perhaps some seasonal ritual that’s been laid down in my DNA?

With coffee in hand and with not much else on, to the office I went in search of an answer…

According to some, it is said that this ‘spring cleaning business’ might have its roots planted in an ancient Jewish custom where the house is thoroughly cleansed before the spring-time memorial feast of Passover.

In digging deeper, it might have started in Iran long before the country’s current Islamic culture.  21 March is the day of the vernal equinox, the first day of the solar cycle when there are more daylight minutes per day than darkness.  This is the day when Iranians celebrate Now Rouz or Persian New Year.

For two weeks streets and houses are adorned with symbols of burning and planting to signify renewal.  A new season, a time for refreshing and reinvigorating life, a process most apparent in the tradition of khooneh takouni – ‘shaking of the house’ or giving it a vigorous cleaning.  Once this has been completed spring can arrive once more.

On further investigation though, there is the Chinese custom of cleansing the home to remove any bad luck and misfortune that may have gathered during the year and be lingering ready to continue into the next.  Once swept clean the Chinese welcome and preserve good fortune by refraining from sweeping for a number of days after just in case they sweep away good fortune that came into the house at the turn of the New Year.

And just when I thought I’d got to the bottom of the story, I discovered that this cleansing business might be a biological thing that goes way back in human history.  Long wintering’s inside, lack of sun equals higher levels of melatonin and reduced energy. Come the spring and with vitality restored ancient man took to spring cleaning his cave – a natural remedy to preventing infection and disease.

Why do I do it? Because it’s the season and that’s my reason.

Happy spring cleaning, Astar

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