Your browser is not supported. We do our best to optimize our websites to the most current web browsers. Please try another browser.
Skip to main content

Behind the Tradition of Cleaning for Lunar New Year

close up writing spring festival couplet to celebrate Chinese new year with word meaning Dragon
Getty Images

With the start of a new year, you may be casting your eye around the house and noticing neglected corners you’re just itching to clean. You’re not alone: the idea of cleaning house as a means of spiritual or physical renewal is one that resonates in many cultures around the world.


In particular, the act has special meaning for the Lunar New Year, starting this year on February 10, 2024 and falling under the sign of the dragon in the Chinese zodiac. Celebrated across Asia, Lunar New Year is particularly important in China, where celebrations span weeks and business often shut down for what is also commonly known as the Spring Festival. Cleaning one’s house is considered necessary preparation before the communal celebration, and a traditional way to clear out the old year’s detritus.

Clearing the Way for a Family Feast

Since Chinese New Year begins with a large reunion meal (tuan nian fan) to gather family at home the night before, it is traditional to start the year off with a clean house. Similar to many Chinese traditions, the act of cleaning is also based on a play on words, where there are similarities between the mandarin word for “dust” and “old”.

This activity may include several generations, depending on the family and circumstances, although some traditions have changed in recent years in how rigorously families follow them.

Timing is Key

All cleaning and shopping must be completed in the days leading up to the Lunar New Year, from the 23rd to the 29th of the 12th lunar month (these dates may vary by region in China).

On a very practical level, the frenzy of cleaning means that the house is nice and tidy for the reunion dinner on the night before Lunar New Year, or for guests to come and bai nein (visit their elders to pay their respects on the first day of the new year). Visiting friends and family continues throughout the first week, with gifts, fruit and red packages exchanged to celebrate Lunar New Year.

wide shot of peoples decorating, adjusting, arranging, hanging and cleaning during Chinese new year eve
Getty Images


Sweeping Success

In terms of specifics with cleaning, sweeping in particular is symbolic of ridding the house of the bad luck of the past year and is done well before celebrations start. For traditionalists, bamboo leaves can be used to sweep the floor, although modern brooms are more common today. Conversely, on the first few days of the Lunar New Year, sweeping, taking out the garbage or even throwing out water should be avoided so as not to purge good fortune. To avoid temptation, brooms can even be hidden away. Mopping, scrubbing and washing are also to be avoided until after the first few days of the new year.

Related: Learn About the Meaning Behind Lunar New Year Decorations

Time to Decorate

Once the house is clean, the fun begins. Colourful decorations, including gold printed symbols such as fu, meaning happiness or good fortune, or black-inked couplets on red paper expressing wishes for a better year are hung on the front door. Fruit trees such as kumquats are prized due to the wordplay around the name in Cantonese (gam gat sue), which is reminiscent of the words for gold and good luck and the kumquat’s golden hue and round shape resembling coins.

Inspired to sweep out some bad luck of your own? However you clean house before this Lunar New Year, here’s to a prosperous Year of the Dragon, and gung hei fat choi.

Related: How to Clean Smarter, Not Harder With These Professional Cleaner Tips

*Note: All Chinese names in this article are English phonetic translations of the Cantonese terms and may vary in terms of spelling.

Latest News

Pulling off a no-grass backyard can be simple with these creative landscape design ideas
June 21, 2024
Elevate your caffeine routine with the perfect at-home coffee bar, thanks to this comprehensive guide.
June 20, 2024
You don’t have to splash out on monogrammed beach towels or furniture sets moulded from gold.
June 19, 2024
If you've got any of these home decor items in your home, it's time to consider donating them... pronto.
June 17, 2024
Thinking about taking the investment property plunge? Here's what you need to know, from maintenance to capital gains.
June 17, 2024
Celebrate Pride in full colour with this vibrant DIY candle holder, made mostly of upcycled materials.
June 14, 2024
Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck are selling their luxurious Beverly Hills estate for an estimated $65 million.
June 13, 2024
Make laundry day more enjoyable (and efficient) with these small laundry room ideas.
June 13, 2024
Add these non-toxic cleaning products to your Amazon cart for a healthier home.
June 12, 2024
This content is restricted to adults of legal age.
Please enter your birthdate to confirm.
Date of Birth