Samjinnal (Kor. 삼짇날, lit. double-three day) falls on the third day of the third lunar month. Three being a positive number in numerology, this date containing two threes was considered to be highly auspicious. Other names of the day, which also have the meaning of two threes, are Samjil (Kor. 삼질) and Samsaennal (Kor. 삼샛날). In addition, the day can be referred to as Yeojaui nal (Kor. 여자의 날, lit. Women’s Day) and “the Day of Swallows’ Returning from the South” (Kor. 강남갔던제비오는날). By this time, spring is usually in full bloom – the weather is warm, the young grass is a lively green, and the first flowers are blooming. Koreans believed that swallows left for their southward journey on ninth day of the ninth lunar month and returned back on Samjinnal. They started to repair their old nests under the eaves or built the new ones to hatch their young.
Many seasonal activities associated with spring took place on this day. Villagers headed out on a hwaryu nori (Kor. 화류놀이) or blossom tour of the nearby mountains as the gardens were increasingly frequented by butterflies, fresh-green buds became visible on tree branches and the hills and prairies put on their colorful spring dresses. Popular picnic foods included flower petal pancakes and other seasonal delights. Banquets were also held around this time of year to treat senior members of the community to special meals. For the noblemen across the country, Samjinnal was a day of archery contests.
Flower petal pancakes - hwajeon (Kor. 화전, Chin. 花煎) - for the blossom picnic were made with glutinous rice batter, formed in circles, fried in a pan with sesame oil and topped with azalea petals. A special dessert known as hwamyeon (Kor. 화면, Chin. 花麵) was prepared by putting slices of mung-bean dough cakes into omija (favor flavor berries)-scented water, and flavoring it with honey and pine nuts. When preparing the mung bean dough for this dessert, housewives sometimes added azalea petals to it. If they made the dough with honey and dyed it red, the dish would be called sumyeon (Kor. 수면, Chin. 水麵). Sumyeon was considered a ritualistic dish as it was frequently used for memorial services.
One of the beliefs associated with Samjinnal is that seeing a white butterfly on that day was an ominous sign since white signifies mourning. The sighting of a white butterfly could result in a family member dying during the course of the year. Tiger or yellow butterflies on the other hand were considered an excellent sign, and portended a lucky year. Women made sure they washed their hair on Samjinnal as they believed it would make their hair vigorous and beautiful throughout the year. Snakes that came out of their hibernation around that time were avoided at all costs since seeing these slithering creatures was regarded as unlucky.