This past June, our daughter turned a year old. Following Korean tradition, we wanted to give her a big first birthday party, or Doljanchi. What’s the best way to do that? Pack up and head to Korea!
We traveled about 24 hours from here in New Brunswick, to Pyeongtaek, South Korea, where our sweet Bobae met her grandparents, and extended family for the first time. I have to say, it was love at first sight.
Traditionally, the first birthday is a very important and joyous event, as infant death rates were so high in days past. Family members, friends and neighbours gather to celebrate the child, and enjoy delicious food together.
These days, it’s common for the family to wear a matching family Hanbok set. We went to a little shop in town that specializes in first birthday clothing where we tried on lots of different styles and settled on a pretty pastel set. I believe it was around $200 for us to rent for the day. Prices of course will vary from place to place.
First birthday parties are usually held at wedding halls, restaurants, hotels and other large venues. We rented a space at the wedding hall in which we married a few years before. For each guests that attends, we pay about $30 for their meal, which is a huge buffet! This may sound expensive, but generally guests bring about $50 each as a gift, which usually covers the cost of the party, with extra left over. As guests leave, they collect a gift from our family. In our case we gave little towels embroidered with our daughters photo and birth date.
The main event of the birthday party is the Doljabi. Spread out on the main table are various objects which are meant to predict the future of the baby. The baby will choose one object which will be of significance to their future, kind if like a little wish. Some traditional objects include a brush/pen/book which signifies intelligence, money for wealth, string for a long life, rice for health, and several more. Our baby girl chose the brush. Little smarty pants.
Although it is an exhausting experience, baby’s doljanchi is so sweet and special, I am so thankful we could experience this momentous occasion with so many lovely family members.