Dol – a Korean’s first birthday

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When I first started to learn about Korean culture and traditions, one of the things that struck me as fun and cute was the way that first birthdays were celebrated. Then, about two weeks ago, I was checking Google Reader and came accross lovely pictures of a little boy’s birthday party at Hostess with the mostess (photographed by Jackie Culmer). The family is Korean-American, so they incorporated the traditions into a very modern-looking celebration, which is, I believe, the way it is probably done nowadays even in Korea.

For me, the best part of this celebration is the moment when the child chooses an object that will represent her or his future (a ceremony called doljabi). In the case of this little boy, he picked a golf ball, which means, of course, he’ll be a golf player!

First birthdays (돌 or dol) are important in Korea because, in the old times, not every kid lived to see this day. So even though things have changed, this is still, I gather, quite a big deal for families and the parties tend to be much bigger than the 100 day celebration, which, usually, comprises only a feast.

Lots of details are pretty particular about this event. Food, for example. Rice cakes and fruit are unavoidable, as is seaweed soup. And there’s this really cool rice cake they always have called mujigae ddeok that consists of colurful layers. Check a picture of it here.

Another traditional components of this celebration include the use of traditional Korean attire – the hanbok -, which is different for boys and girls, and the act of giving the kid a gold ring that, in the old days could be used to pay for the kid’s college expenses, for example. From what I’ve read, it is not so usual to give out rings anymore, but clothes and toys are acceptable. Traditional photos include the kid sitting by a table with food. Parents may also use traditional clothing.

But the most characteristic event in a first birthday is the aforementioned doljabi, when the child chooses an item that will share a glimpse into his/her future. Traditionally, the baby could choose among money, a pen, a piece of thread, a book, rice… I found this interesting excerpt in the Official Site of Korea Tourism: “The baby’s destiny may be told based on the item that is picked up by the baby. For a baby boy, rice, a bundle of white thread, a book, paper, and bow and arrow are placed on the table. For a baby girl, a pair of scissors, needles and a ruler are laid out instead of a bow and arrow”. Nowadays, though, parents are getting a bit more creative and have added items like microphones, stethoscopes and even gavels to this ceremony.

Now, on with the eye candy! (And I didn’t take any of the pictures, of course. The credits are after each picture and clicking on them will lead you to the site where they were found.)


photo Shots & Giggles


photo Shots & Giggles


photo Shots & Giggles


photo Caroline Tran

For tons of other awesome pictures, check the websites below (they both have a special dol category):

Jennifer Kim Photography
Shots & Giggles Photography

* Just so you know: the dol (or doljanchi) includes the doljabi – the ceremony in which the child choose an object. I found pictures and information on the internet under the two names, so I just thought I should clarify.

*Just so you know 2: some of the info on this post was taken from Culture Shock! Korea – A survival guide to customs and etiquette, by Sonja Vegdahl and Ben Seunghwa Hur.

Check out more posts from this collaboration HERE.
Check out the other collaborators’ blogs here.
Check out The Korea Blog!

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One response »

  1. Pingback: Eye candy: Sera’s first birthday « Korea on my mind

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