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Spring Cleaning, Big Cleaning

Ewa Nowogorski

Do you do a thorough cleaning of your house in the spring? Or maybe just before a big holiday or vacation? Most households in Japan certainly do. In this country, people tend to put their homes through a rigorous and thorough cleaning sometime in late December before January 1st, to prepare their home to welcome the good luck and fortune of the new year.

This practice, called Osouji, or literally “big cleaning”,  was actually preceded by soot cleaning during the Edo Period, when people cleaned their house chimneys on December 13th to welcome the gods of the new year.

These gods are Shinto deities that are thought to visit every home in the New Year, and they bring health and good luck to the families of those homes. But before they can come, there are preparations that that household must make. During this time, you will see many rice straw rope decorations on the front doors of people’s homes. This decoration is called “shimekazari”, and it invites the gods.

The cleaning of the house itself is a good excuse to actually finally give the home a much needed deep-cleaning, but it symbolises the act of trying to purify the home so that it may be acceptable to the gods.

Cleaning dust from all sorts of vents, deep cleaning kitchen appliances, and sorting out clothes and other possessions are just some of the things that people do. Throwing away unnecessary clothing and appliances may also be something else that people do.

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