Doljanchi: How Koreans Celebrate First Birthday

Nehal Tambe, Mumbai, Maharashtra

The birth of a child is a very special feeling, not only for the parents but for anyone who hears about the birth of a new-born. The first year of life of a child outside the mother’s womb always remains a beautiful memory. Hence, it is celebrated in a special way in almost all parts of the world, including South Korea. Korean 1st birth year celebration is called “Doljanchi” or 돌잔치, commonly known as Dol. This day marks the first year of a child and South Korean people celebrate this day in a very traditional and elaborated manner.

Picture Credits: Wikipedia

Similar to different cultures, Koreans tend to celebrate Dol as a traditional event, a custom that still prevails. The origin of this celebration is credited to the historical records of South Korea, when the infant mortality rate was very low and most babies could not survive their first year of life due to poor health conditions and nutrition. So, when the infants would live through their first year, the family would celebrate it in a grand manner. Since, it was considered a major milestone in a child’s life, the tradition to celebrate this day started. Even today, when South Korea is a developed country and health systems and infrastructures have improved drastically, people still continue to celebrate Doljanchi as a tradition.

This event itself is very unique as the child gets dressed up in a traditional hanbok and hat known as gulle for baby girls and hogeon for baby boys. The parents and close relatives sometimes dress in traditional attire as well. Doljanchi is believed to be the day children decide their purpose in this world and what path they would be following in the future. To do that, there is a fortune-telling custom called doljabi or 돌잡이 where different toys and objects are laid in front of the child and they are asked to choose one of them. The objects often include musical instruments, a stethoscope, a toy-related to sports like a ball or bat, microphone, pen, money, books, etc.

Each toy or object represents a career path or profession. The child is allowed to pick any toy or object and what he/she chooses that is believed to be what he/she will grow up to become. For example, if the child chooses a stethoscope, it is assumed that the child will grow up to become a doctor or if the child chooses any musical instrument, it is believed that the child will pursue his/her musical interests as a career. However, this is only done for fun and does not necessarily imply the child’s destiny.

Picture Credits: Wikipedia

Thus, in South Korean culture, Doljanchi is considered a day of happiness to celebrate a child’s first year in this world. This celebration also reflects ethnic, cultural and traditional values which South Korea is best known for. Watch this video to know more about Doljanchi and let us know your thoughts in the comment sections.

Video Credits: ARIRANG ISSUE

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Tahoora Charfare says:

    Wow, I just love how their culture has stayed intact even after such advancements!!!
    Plus I would love to try Hanbok😍
    Good one Nehal 👍 learned new terms ,adding to my korean vocabulary.

  2. riyarcworld says:

    Wow. I was always curious about the first Birthday in Korea. Thankyou for this informative article! Well written!!

    1. jasminek134 says:

      It’s so good to see how Korean people preserve their traditions and customs, and Doljanchi is one such example which is explained very well in this article 🙂

  3. Smriti. L says:

    Very informative article!

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