First Birthday Party Tradition in Korea (Doljanchi) 

March 26, 2016

Birthdays in Korea are always an interesting thing for me (even after a year being here). It can be a bit confusing since Koreans are the only country to do birthdays so different. Age is one of the most important things in Korean culture.  Koreans don’t actually get older on their birthday, but add a year on the New Year. This has been the main reason behind my confusion, but I guess it just takes a while to get used to.  Celebrating  my Korean friend’s birthdays over the past year has given me a few impressions. First thing is that the celebrations don’t seem as big as they are in the US. We have a lot of big celebrations and people tend to throw some fairly big parties. US 21st birthdays (especially for girls) are probably some of the most elaborate. They consist of a big celebration, shot books and overall night of debauchery. I had the wrong impression that Koreans did not seem to care much about birthdays, until I attended my classmates son’s wonderful first birthday (Doljanchi). Also, I have heard the 60th birthday celebration is also very extravagant.



1st Birthday (Doljanchi) 

Doljanchi is the Korean tradition of celebrating the first birthday. Traditionally on 1st birthdays the baby wears a hanbok or traditional suit, but this is not always the case. My classmate’s son was dressed in a birthday tuxedo and the cuteness level was overwhelming.  Doljanchi stems from the past history when many kids would not survive past their first birthday. This milestone became very important and would be a celebration for the entire village or community. It is still a very important tradition, but has become modernized.

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This Saturday classmates and I headed to Sangmu to the Premium Outlet Entertainment Mall where the party was held.  We headed up to the 11th floor where the Alice buffet and party room was located. The place was packed full of family, friends, coworkers, and other random party goers to celebrate a year of life! Before entering the party we collected gathered money to give as a present. This is apparently the norm, but also common to give clothes or golden ring.

1st Birthday (Doljanchi) 

We went to the private room where our friend’s celebration would be held. We grabbed our seats said hello to everyone and headed out for the buffet. The arrangement was similar to 7 Springs or Ashley’s buffets, but the food seemed a bit higher quality and there was more of a selection.

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After grabbing a full plate we headed back to our room. I grabbed some complimentary beer and soju to wash down our food. Shortly after sitting down the celebration began with the MC (Master of Ceremonies) raffling off a few prizes, followed by some birthday songs and finished with some dancers. After this the baby was presented with a few items to choose and picked the microphone, meaning he would grow up to eventually be an entertainer aka Kpop star. This is a common ritual of predicting the future. The baby is presented with a few different items and each one has a different meaning behind it.   The celebration was really cool and completely different than anything I have ever been to.

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