4 cool spring cleaning traditions from around the world

An elephant ridden by a mahout sprays water at crowds attenting the Songkran Festival in Ayuttaya Province, Thailand. (istockphoto)

Westerners aren’t the only ones who take advantage of the warm weather to clean shop. In fact, spring cleaning is pretty much an international holiday, judging from these four holidays that put de-cluttering on the agenda.

Songkran: This annual holiday of is a wet and wild celebration of the South Asian New Year, celebrated on April 13. It’s also known as the “water festival” because the religiously inclined pour water over themselves to wash away their sins. In some cities, particularly the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, this tradition has turned into an epic two-day water fight that attracts tourists from around the world. But there’s a softer side to Songkram – many households take the opportunity to clean their homes (particularly any religious icons, like Buddha statues) and to visit elderly relatives.

Khane-Tekani: The Persian New Year of Nowruz falls on the first day of spring, between March 19 and March 22. Tradition has it that the spirits of deceased family members come to visit on that day. In preparation, Persian families undertake Khane-Tekani – literally “house shaking” – to welcome them. They also fill their homes with fresh flowers, usually¬†hyacinth and narcissus, and burn incense made from the esfand plant.

Chinese New Year: Massive parades and fireworks aside, the most important day on the Chinese Lunisolar calendar is also an opportunity to quietly contemplate the previous year and hope for a better tomorrow. Based on the Cantonese saying “Wash away the dirt on ninyabaat [the 28th day of the 12 month],” Chinese households undertake a rigorous cleaning regiment, sweeping dust out of their homes (to remove bad luck), fixing anything that’s broken and tidying up doors and entrance ways. Then, during the first few days of the New Year, brooms and dust pans are tucked away to avoid accidentally sweeping away the newly-arrived good fortune.

Passover: In Jewish households, spring cleaning is motivated by Passover, the 8-day holiday marking the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. According to the story of Passover, after Moses obtained a promise from the Pharaoh to free the Hebrew slaves, Moses and his people were forced to leave so quickly, they didn’t have time to let their bread rise (or leaven). So, Passover tradition states that all traces of chametz (leavened bread) must be removed from the home before the first day of Passover. In Orthodox Jewish households, the process for removing chametz can be very rigorous and includes thoroughly cleaning all dishes, “kashering” (pouring boiling water over) cleaning surfaces and appliances, cleaning out the fridge and freezer, scrubbing and washing floors and scouring the sink.