A doljanchi 돌잔치 (dol) is a traditional Korean 1st birthday celebration. Originating from a high infant mortality rate, reaching the first birthday became a milestone and celebration. Along with the 60th birthday, it is considered to be one of the most important birthdays a Korean will celebrate.
Originally there were two main parts to the birthday celebration. The first part consisted of prayer. Prayers would be said to Sanshin the mountain god and Samshin the birth goddess. A table of specially prepared foods would be laid out, and the women of the family would offer prayers and thanks. Today there are a few who practice Muism the religion which worshiped Sanshin and Samshin and so this part of the doljanchi is skipped.
The second party of the celebration is the doljabi, and this is a tradition which has continued. The baby would be dressed in a dolbok and placed on the dolsang. Several items would be placed before the child, and the child would be urged to pick one. The item chosen was believed to fortell the child’s future. Today guests are often given the option to guess what the birthday child will pick and submit their guesses. A raffle is then held and the winner receives a prize. For more information on the doljabi check out our doljabi page here
The dolsang table was traditionally the main table where the child would be placed on and where the doljabi ceremony would take place. Today it is often a beautifully decorated table, and the child is place on the floor or another area for the doljabi. On a traditional dolsang is dduk (rice cakes), fruit and a bowl of rice. Food is stacked high to symbolize a long prosperous life for the child. Dol towers (dol go ims) were traditionally used in 60th/70th dol parties to signify lifetime achievements; now they have come to represent future accomplishments and are often seen at a modern day dol. Sang Hwa or artificial flowers made out of rice were traditionally used as real flowers were believed to be bad luck as you were taking life away from a living thing.
Birthday babies wear a hanbok (traditional dress) and a jobawi or gulle (traditional headgear) for baby girls and a bokgeon or hogeon (traditional headgear) for baby boys.
Originally only sons of the yangban (ruling class) wore a dol-bok for their first birthday. They traditionally wore a pink or striped jogori (jacket), a striped durumagi (long jacket), a blue vest printed with a gold or silver pattern or a striped magoja (jacket), a jonbok (long blue vest) with a gold or silver pattern, purple or gray paji (pants), a bokgun (black hat with long tail), and tarae-busun (traditional socks). Words and symbols related to the child were sewn into the fabric. This tradition spread to the other classes and daughters. A girl would wear a striped jogori (jacket) a long red chima (skirt), a gold-and-silver printed jobawi (hat) and tarae-busun. In addition to their dol-bok, boys and girls would wear a long dol-ddi (belt that wraps around the body twice) for longevity and a dol-jumuni (pouch) for luck. The dol-jumuni wouldbe made of fine silk, with a thread to open and close it. Buttons were not used in the dol-bok, to symbolize longevity.” Modern day hanboks usually consist of only two or three pieces and are made from less expensive fabrics.
Traditional good luck gifts include money, jewelry or a gold ring (gold to symbolize longevity and fortune).