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Out with the Old: Ring in the New Year with Cultural Cleaning Customs

Posted January 21, 2023 by Mike Lewis under Tips

Out with the Old: Ring in the New Year with Cultural Cleaning Customs


As the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, people around the world engage in various customs and traditions to usher in the new year with hope, prosperity, and a fresh start. Among these customs, cleaning plays a significant role, symbolizing the removal of the old and making way for the new. In this article, I will explore the fascinating world of cultural cleaning customs celebrated during the New Year, shedding light on their origins, symbolism, and the deeper meanings behind these age-old practices.

Shaking Off the Dust: Cleaning Traditions for the New Year

Japanese Osouji

In Japan, the tradition of “osouji” (大掃除), or “big cleaning,” is an integral part of the New Year celebrations. This custom involves a thorough cleaning of the entire house, from top to bottom, in preparation for the new year. The Japanese believe that starting the year with a clean and decluttered environment invites good luck and positive energy.

The osouji tradition has its roots in the Shinto religion, which emphasizes purification and cleanliness. During this time, Japanese households remove dust, clutter, and unnecessary items, symbolizing the elimination of misfortunes and negative energy from the previous year. The act of cleaning is seen as a way to welcome the new year with a fresh and pure mindset.

Chinese Spring Cleaning

The Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year, is celebrated with a grand cleaning tradition called “Spring Cleaning” (春節大掃除). This custom is observed not only in China but also in other East and Southeast Asian countries with significant Chinese cultural influences.

The Spring Cleaning ritual involves a thorough cleaning of the entire home, from sweeping and mopping floors to wiping down surfaces and cleaning windows. The act of cleaning is believed to remove any lingering bad luck or negative energy from the previous year, making way for good fortune and prosperity in the new year.

One notable aspect of the Chinese Spring Cleaning tradition is the use of specific colors and symbols. Red is considered an auspicious color, and decorations featuring red lanterns, calligraphy, and paper cuttings are commonly displayed to attract good luck.

Scottish Hogmanay Cleaning

In Scotland, the Hogmanay celebrations (the Scottish New Year) are accompanied by a tradition of deep cleaning. This custom involves thoroughly cleaning the house, including sweeping out any ashes from the fireplace and scrubbing the floors and surfaces.

The Scottish believed that starting the new year with a clean and tidy home would bring good luck and prosperity. Additionally, they would ensure that all debts were settled before the new year, symbolizing a fresh start and a clean slate.

Sweeping Away the Past: Symbolism and Meaning

Behind these cultural cleaning customs lies a deep symbolism and meaning that transcends mere practical cleanliness. The act of cleaning represents a metaphorical cleansing of the past, a shedding of the old to make way for the new.

In many cultures, the new year is seen as a time of renewal, a chance to start anew with a clean slate. By physically cleaning and decluttering their homes, people symbolically purge themselves of the negative experiences, mistakes, and misfortunes of the previous year, creating space for positive energy and new beginnings.

Furthermore, these cleaning rituals often carry spiritual and religious significance. In some traditions, cleaning is seen as a way to honor deities or ancestors, inviting their blessings and protection for the upcoming year.

Embracing the New: Incorporating Cultural Cleaning Customs

As we step into a new year, embracing cultural cleaning customs can be a powerful way to connect with our roots, honor traditions, and foster a sense of renewal and fresh beginnings. Here are some practical ways to incorporate these customs into your own New Year celebrations:

  1. Set aside time for deep cleaning: Dedicate a specific day or period before the new year to thoroughly clean your home, removing clutter, and creating a fresh and organized space.

  2. Involve the whole family: Make cleaning a family affair, where everyone contributes to the process. This not only lightens the workload but also instills a sense of unity and shared responsibility.

  3. Incorporate symbolic elements: Incorporate traditional elements, such as burning incense, displaying auspicious decorations, or using specific cleaning tools or materials that hold cultural significance.

  4. Reflect and let go: As you clean, consciously reflect on the past year’s challenges, disappointments, and negative experiences. Use the act of cleaning as a symbolic way to let go of these burdens and embrace a fresh start.

  5. Create new traditions: While honoring cultural traditions, feel free to adapt and create your own personal rituals or customs that resonate with your values and beliefs.


Cultural cleaning customs for the New Year are more than just practical routines; they are deeply rooted in symbolism, spirituality, and a universal desire for renewal and fresh beginnings. By embracing these traditions, we not only honor our cultural heritage but also tap into the collective human experience of seeking hope, prosperity, and a clean slate as we embark on a new chapter.

So, as the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, let us join together in the act of cleaning, shedding the remnants of the past year and welcoming the new with open arms and a cleansed environment, both physically and metaphorically.

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