A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to a first birthday party. In Korea, 100 days (백일) and the first birthday (돌잔치) are big events and this was the my first 돌잔치. Many years ago, it was a big deal if a child survived the first year in Korea so they placed huge importance on a first birthday and continue to do so today.
The location for these parties are usually party rooms. On the way in were beautiful pictures of the child as a baby and with her parents as well as decorations and the like. After saying hello to my friends and their daughter I sat down to write my message to Claire (the baby). The tables were all set for food so we sipped on drinks after which we enjoyed a buffet style meal. The atmosphere was really easy going and relaxed.
After the meal we watched a great video of Claire’s first year after which was the uniquely Korean part called Doljabi or 돌잠이. The following items were placed on a tray, a stethoscope (청진기), pencil(연필), money (돈), gavel (판사봉), a ball (공) and a some yarn (실). Whichever item the child grabs is used to predict the child’s future and talents. In this case she chose the gavel which means that perhaps she’ll her future job will be in law.
Choosing the pencil means the child will be scholarly, the string means a long life, the money means that the child will never be poor, the ball means that the child will be good at sport and the stethoscope means that the child will become a doctor. It’s a unique Korean event at a first birthday. Claire also wore a traditional Korean dress.
On the way in, each guest makes a prediction as to which item the child will choose and a winner is given a token.
A traditional gift for a first birthday is a gold ring for their little fingers but these days gold anything works as does clothing, toys or cash.
It was such a privilege to be able to join this special occasion and a first birthday here is definitely a lot different to the first birthday’s back home.