- Removing All Chametz
You probably already knew that Passover was a Jewish holiday in April, celebrating the ancient Israelites' freedom from slavery in Egypt. According to the Book of Exodus, they had to leave in such a hurry that they didn't have time to let their bread rise or leaven. That's why Jews today only eat matzo - a flat, unleavened bread - during Passover. The Torah also proscribes that no leavened products, known as chametz, be present. What constitutes chametz can differ depending on who you ask, but strictly speaking, it means any product containing grains that isn't certified as kosher for Passover.
No chametz means not so much as a grain of flour. Jews may spend weeks before Passover cleaning their homes to remove it. First, they'll go through their kitchen, removing any chametz and packing it away. Then they'll clean the entire house -- between every crack and crevice -- to be sure that even the tiniest speck is gone. There's a ritual search for any remaining chametz the night before Passover, and special prayers to release ownership of any chametz that was missed.
What happens to the chametz? Some donate it or sell it to non-Jews (who also lease a sealed-off space in the home where it's stored and buy it back after Passover, depending on what it is). Many Jews burn their chametz in a bonfire. It's a seriously specialized form of cleaning that's a tribute to the past but is also designed to remove the spiritual chametz of egotism and oppression.
On many Asian calendars, New Year's Day falls during the spring months. In Thailand, it's April 13, marking the start of a two-day festival called Songkran. Similar festivals, which follow the same calendar, occur under different names in Laos and Cambodia. Thais not only use this time to give their houses a good deep cleaning, but they also clean any images or statues of Buddha in their homes or at shrines. During parades, people may also throw water at images of Buddha to ritually cleanse them. Often, this water is mixed with perfume and fragrant herbs, and all of the cleanliness is supposed to bring blessings and good luck in the new year.
Originally, pouring water on others was meant to show them kindness and respect; water that had run off the Buddha images would be captured and then gently poured on elders and monks to bless and purify them. If you happen to be in Thailand during Songkran, though, you'd better be prepared to get a shower -- whether you want one or not. Eventually, the water purification ritual evolved to spraying people in the streets with hoses and squirt guns. Not exactly the original spirit of the whole thing, but considering how hot it is in April in Thailand (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 40 degrees Celsius), you might not mind.
The start of a new year is often considered a time of renewal, just like spring. Otherwise, why would we make those pesky resolutions? However, most of us probably aren't doing lots of cleaning beforehand (unless you're having people over). Plus, it's in winter. But for many cultures, the new year and spring coincide. The Persian (and Iranian, and Zoroastrian) holiday known as Nowruz falls on the first day of spring and is the first day of the Persian calendar, too. People celebrate Nowruz in numerous countries in the Middle East, Central Asia and around the world.
Before Nowruz celebrations can begin, though, there's the spring cleaning ritual known as Khaneh-Tekani, literally "shaking house." The entire family pitches in, scouring the whole house inside and out. This includes things that don't get cleaned as often during the rest of the year, such as silverware, carpets, and furniture, as well as clearing the garden of winter debris. Houses might also get a fresh coat of paint. To freshen and scent the air, some people burn sandalwood or an herb called espand. They may also buy scented flowers like hyacinth. Not only is Khaneh-Tekani about physically cleaning your house, but it's also about getting rid of the past and of evil spirits.
Still, it wasn't a big surprise that for many people, spring cleaning is about much more than just getting rid of junk and dirt. It's also meant to symbolize clearing out the cobwebs in the mind and soul. And sometimes it clears the way for good times ahead, too.
It's up to you: Go slide-by-slide for a whole home makeover or tackle your home's dirtiest spots when you have some extra time on your hands. Either way, you'll have a cleaner with Cleaning Master, more livable space in no time.