The first birthday of a baby is always a special event. There’s lots of cake, cheer and celebration. But in Korea, a baby’s first birthday takes on special significance.
The first birthday celebrations in Korea are usually held in buffet restaurants or wedding halls. Many guests are invited, and parents prepare some prizes for them. Upon entering the party, everyone gets a piece of paper on which a number is written. The host of the party then calls out a number randomly, and the person who carries the piece of paper with that number receives a prize.
But before the main celebration begins, the baby is dressed in colourful clothing called Dol-bok. Boys traditionally wear a pink or striped Jogori (jacket) with purple or gray Paji (pants), a striped Durumagi (long jacket), a blue vest printed with a gold or silver pattern or a striped Magoja (jacket), a Jonbok (long blue vest) with a gold or silver pattern, a Bokgun (black hat with long tail), and Tarae-busun (traditional socks). Girls, on the hand, wear a striped Jogori, a long red Chima (skirt), a gold-and-silver printed Jobawi (hat) and Tarae-busun.
The highlight of the Doljanchi is a traditional Korean ritual where the child is placed in front of a table laden with colourful foods and objects such as string, brushes, ink and sometimes, money. The child is then urged to pick up an object from the table. It is believed that the one selected by the child will foretell his/her future. For example, if the child picks up the brush, he will be good at arts or if he chooses the money, he will be financially savvy.
This ritual, like most others in Asian Culture, is followed by feasting. Dinner usually involves plain rice, seaweed soup, and rice cakes – Tteok. The rice cake is the highlight of the table, made with seven layers coloured like a rainbow. Doljanchi concludes with merriment. The host and guests sing and play with the toddler to signal an end to the memorable day.
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