Doljanchi: A Traditional Korean First Birthday Party

The very first birthday of a baby called a doljanchi is very important in Korean culture. The doljanchi is a centuries-old tradition that many Korean families still celebrate today. Doljanchi is a traditional Korean ceremony and party where family and friends come together to celebrate a child’s first year of life.

What is Doljanchi?

Doljanchi 돌잔치 is the first birthday celebration for a Korean child. Dol 돌 means birthday and janchi 잔치 means banquet or feast so technically Doljanchi is a Korean tradition celebrating the first birthday of a baby. “Dol (돌)” means the first birthday when a baby turns a “full year old” and “janchi” (잔치) means banquet or feast.

During a doljanchi the guest of honor – the baby – is placed in the center of a table. The family brings out different items for the baby to choose from as a way of ‘predicting’ their future. The items that are usually brought out are a pencil or calligraphy brush a stethoscope money a book and other items of similar nature. Doljabi is a tradition where the baby is placed in front of various items or objects (Usually 6 – 8 items). Then the baby is encouraged to grab one or two items from the selection and this will foreshadow their future profession or fate.

The Importance of a Doljanchi

The first birthday is called a “dol” (돌) or “doljanchi” (돌잔치) in Korean. This celebration was extremely important in the past as many newborns never made it to see their first birthday. Doljanchi marks the survival of the baby and the conferring of a prosperous life ahead. It’s a formal way of honoring the special milestone in the baby’s life and his or her entrance into the world and therefore is often celebrated similar to a wedding with an elaborate feast. Doljanchi is celebrated by having a big party with lots of traditional foods rituals and customs. The dominant dish of the Doljanchi is the rice cake.

The Doljanchi also known as the “dolsang” is a celebration of the first birthday of a baby or child in the Korean culture. It is one of the most important milestones and events celebrated in Koreand many traditional practices and foods are associated with this tradition. Traditional Doljanchi celebration involves the parents hosting a huge feast for family friends and relatives.

Foods Prepared for the Doljanchi

At the center of the table is a special rainbow-colored rice cake called suljung which symbolizes good luck in the baby’s life. The meal is normally complemented with fruits, seaweed soup, bulgogi and chap chae.

Types of Food Prepared for the Doljanchi

Rice cake (Suljung)- makes up the centerpiece of the Doljanchi table and is a symbol of good luck. It is a multi-layered rice cake that is wheat-based and is often steamed and decorated in many colors.
Seaweed soup (Miyeok Guk)- the soup is a common dish prepared to be eaten during both special and daily occasions in Korea.
Fruits- is usually served to balance the effect of other salty dishes. Bulgogi- is a Korean dish made of thinly-sliced beef marinated in soy sauce sugar garlic and sesame oil. Chap Chae- is a type of stir-fried Korean noodles made of sweet potato starch.

The parents place the baby in front of the table and place in front of them a spoon chopsticks a rice bowl and a bowl of seaweed soup. It is believed that the baby is capable of understanding the importance of the milestone and will grow strong.

A Traditional Korean First Birthday Party

Long has been the Korean tradition to celebrate a baby’s first birthday in the form of a grand ceremony called Doljanchi (1st Birthday Party). This a special occasion that blesses the child with a prosperous future. To the Koreans the dol is as important as the wedding day for an adult.

Dol 돌 means birthday and janchi 잔치 means banquet or feast so technically doljanchi means birthday party. One of the main events at the first birthday is the doljabi (돌자비) ceremony.

The Meaning of Doljabi

Essentially Doljabi is a Korean tradition that occurs in a Korean First Birthday Celebration. It is an event that symbolizes and predicts the letter’s future path. Customarily various prospects of a prosperous life is represented by different objects strategically laid in front of the baby. Such items could include a pair of scissors (Scholar) a pen or brush (Scholar),a book (Scholar) a spoon and bowl (Prosperity) coins (Wealth) etc.

Doljabi Rituals

In a culture with fun celebrations for babies doljanchi is the big deal. During the baby’s first birthday families gather and cheer when the baby picks an item with both arms. If the kid chooses the pen it indicates in the nursing indicator of wealth and prosperity. A yarn represents a long life and a long life is indicated when the baby selects a bow. The prizes have meaning and speak to the hopes and aspirations that the parents have for their child.

Essentially Doljabi is a tradition constituted to bless the child with the best of luck and success. The items placed in front of the baby may differ but the main idea of the doljabi ceremony always remains the same: to grant the baby with a bright future ahead.

That’s all about the traditional Korean first birthday party Doljanchi. Through the doljabi ceremony this unique and colourful event is an exciting way for families and friends to bless the newborn and hope for the bright future of the little one.