After months of cold winds and chilly air, I am sure many of us are longing to see the end of winter. As it happens, we are in spring now! February 4 is regarded as 입춘 (Ibchun), or (officially) “the beginning of spring.” However, do not get too excited just yet! In Korea, there is the saying 꽃샘추위 (ggotsaem-chuwi), or in English, “spring cold.” This phrase can be translated literally as: flower (꽃) jealous (샘) cold (추위). Since Korean grammar is different from English, the literal meaning of this saying is “The cold is jealous of the flowers.”
Korean weather can be unpredictable, especially during the transition of seasons where temperatures can drop or increase quite drastically, causing people to catch colds or fevers more easily. After long days of winter, we all surely cannot wait to start wearing thin layers of clothes, instead of bundling ourselves with thick jackets, and do more activities outside. Still, there are days when the weather can suddenly change with cold winds, even though it is spring – this is where the term 꽃샘추위 comes from. The cold is jealous of the beauty of spring (symbolized by flowers) and returns with a vengeance. Sometimes the cold can last for a couple of days, so do not wash your jackets quite yet. Keep at least one coat just in case the 추위 comes.
The good news is, 꽃샘추위 usually occurs only at the beginning of spring. The bad news is, we do not really know when! It might come in March, April, or even May – but rarely. So, bear with it, and get ready for the long-awaited spring! One more synonym related to coldness in Korean is 삼한사온 (samhan-saon), which literally means “three colds and four warms.” In Korea, although winter is sometimes harsh (it can reach up to minus 20 degrees Celsius in northern areas), we are still blessed with warmer days where the winds are not blowing too hard and the sunshine is warm. From this comes the phrase “three colds and four warms,” or “a cycle of three cold days and four warm days.”
So, enjoy the very last phase of winter, and get ready for those beautiful spring blossoms!