Doljanchi – The First Birthday Celebration in Korea!
Have you ever heard about Doljanchi? If you are a true Korean lover, you must’ve heard of this word as you learn about Korean language and culture. In this article, I will share my knowledge about Doljanchi and its importance in Korean culture! Let’s dig in!
Table of Contents
In Korean Language. The word ‘Dol 돌’ means two, since the babies are considered two years old in Korea, even though they’re one year old since the day they were born. Meanwhile, the word ‘Janchi 잔치’ means party or feast.
Doljanchi 돌잔치 refers to the Korean tradition of celebrating the first birthday of a Korean baby.
Here are some history and facts about Doljanchi.
Origin of Doljanchi
Credit to flickr
Doljanchi has been an essential part of Korean tradition since the 18th century. During that time, Korea is not having excellent healthcare, which made the infant mortality rate high due to various diseases.
Many babies died before they reached their first birthday. So much so that even the birth registrations were delayed.
Fortunately, their survival possibility rises exponentially after the baby reaches their first age. Most babies that successfully reach their first birthday are more likely to be alive and survive.
That’s why Koreans hold a feast to celebrate their baby’s first year as thanksgiving and a prayer for the baby’s longevity.
Therefore the infant’s first year is a significant milestone for Koreans and Doljanchi become an essential part of Korean culture.
Doljabi (돌잡이) - Highlight of Doljanchi
Credit to wikimedia commons
Doljabi is a Korean custom of fortune telling during the Doljanchi events.
Traditionally, the parents will lay out symbolic items like money, books, pencil, camera, and others before the babies. Whatever the baby picks first will predict the baby’s future.
In the past, Korea was highly influenced by shamanism, so some people do believe Doljabi could foretell the baby’s future.
However, modern Korean family doesn’t believe this anymore, but it’s still fun things to do during Doljanchi.
Here are some item and it’s meaning most korean use during Doljabi.
- Money: Wealthy person
- Pencil: Teacher
- Bow: Military
- Microphone: Singer
- Mouse: Software engineer
- Sport Goods: Athlete
- Camera: Journalist
- Medicine: Doctor
Dolsang - Key Component of Doljanchi
In Korean, ‘dol’ refer to the first birthday, while ‘sang’ means table. Dolsang is a unique table for Doljanchi events, filled with items with significant meaning and wishes.
All of the items on Dolsang symbolize prayer for the child’s future. Here are things you will often see in a Dolsang.
- Fruit: wishes for prosperity (fruits are very expensive in Korea).
- Stacked Rice cakes (떡) of different colors: wishes for pure conscience, live in harmony with others, generous to everyone, filled with wisdom and shun evil.
- Seaweed soup (미역국): wishes to live in honor to the parents.
- Threads: wishes for harmonious future marriage.
- Coil of white yarn: wishes for a long healthy life.
- Five Colorful Silk Pouches: wishes for a stress-free life.
Most Koreans give a jewelry gift of a 24k gold ring known as ‘Dol Banji(돌반지’ or 24k gold ring)‘ to family members that host Doljanchi.
It is a common gift for a baby’s first birthday (Doljanchi) celebrations as it symbolizes the wishes for success and prosperity.
However, if you’re not a part of the family or don’t have a lot of money to buy Dol Banji, you can give them an envelope of cash.
Doljanchi Guest (Return) Gifts
After finishing the Doljanchi event, Koreans will give return gifts to guests as a symbol of gratitude for those who come, known as ‘Dablyepum 답례품.’
The standard return gifts are a towel with zodiac embroidery, rice cakes, mugs, or soap.
Doljanchi Suit Code
Credit to mydaehan
The host usually wear Hanbok with their kids, so you shouldn’t wear Hanbok during this event. If you are a man, you can wear a suit; if you are a woman, you can wear a dress.
Doljanchi is an essential event in a Korean baby’s life. If you get invited, make sure you come and respect this Korean tradition.
This is all I can share all about Doljanchi, the first birthday celebration in South Korean culture. Have you ever come to the this event? Let me know in the comment sections below!
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