[Culture] Spring Cleaning

Chinese New Year decor

Today it's the 8th of February, 2013, but on the old calendar - the lunar calendar - it's the 28th day of the last month of the year. Some months there isn't a 30th day of the month, and this is such a year where the last month has only 29 days, but it is not possible for there to be a 31st day of the last month.

What does this mean? I'm not particularly religious or superstitious, but there is a saying in Chinese that basically goes '28th of the year, dirty', which is a rhyme which plays on the sound of the words. Puns which play on sounds of words is common in Chinese (thought not heard that often in my family), but basically the 28th is a day of cleaning. I'll turn over to this random website to tell you in more detail:

Traditionally houses are cleaned on the 28th day (of the last month) of the (old) year, prior to the Chinese New Year [...]. Often bamboo leaves are used to clean the house, as bamboo is believed to drive out evil spirits. Cleaning the house symbolises sweeping out any misfortune or traces of bad luck.

It's interesting that in 'renewing' this luck, the new luck then should not be 'swept away' in the first few days of the new year. My family don't follow these stringent rules, but it's still interesting to hear my dad suddenly break out with a phrase I've never heard of before and discover little elements of my culture I'd never noticed, or perhaps forgotten.

During the Chinese New Year, sweeping the house should be avoided- especially during the first three days-, since otherwise upcoming good luck would be swept out. If one ought to sweep during the first three days of the New Year celebration (extremely superstitious Chinese say until the fifth day), it is important to collect the dust in a corner to keep the new arrived good luck inside the house.

Image from China Tour Advisers. Quotes from Nations Online.