Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/10/19
Primary Language: English
“A Korean tradition celebrates a baby’s first birthday and it’s super traditional, like the baby wears the traditional Korean outfit and there’s rice cakes that are like rainbow, and there’s like fruit and always a lot of food but the main event is where uhm you set the baby in front of 5 or 6 different objects, and the baby has to choose one. Like a pen is going to be intellectual/writer, a stethoscope means you’ll probably be a doctor, there’s usually something for sports and there’s like other things that the parents want to throw in. Now there’s like cameras if their parents are photographers, or a paintbrush for an artist, but you put the baby in front and the baby chooses one of the things and that’s supposed to kinda predict what they are going to do in life and that’s a big part of the birthday celebration.”
Background Information: The informant is a current USC student with a Korean background. We were discussing childhood stories when she suddenly remembered a big tradition in Korean culture. After telling me the story, the informant texted her mom inquiring about her first birthday celebration. She didn’t remember what item she chose as a baby, so she asked her mom. Her mom responded and said that the informant had chosen a pen, which as mentioned in the piece, represented intellectual/writer. I asked the informant if her decision of choosing the pen was consistent with her major and she agreed that it was.
Context: I was explaining the purpose of my assignment to the informant by providing different examples of folklore that I had collected from other students. After giving several examples, the informant stopped me in my tracks and began telling me this piece. This tradition is something that the informant’s family participate in. She remembers it because whenever a first birthday is celebrated, a family reunion is planned to witness the tradition.
Personal analysis: I remember when I was younger, I was watching the movie Tinkerbell with my siblings and one of the scenes included a tradition similar to the Korean tradition that was described. Upon being born, Tinkerbell was placed in the middle of a circle surrounded by different objects. It was explicitly stated that whatever item she picked up first would determine her job in the fairy world kingdom. Now that I’ve been informed that this is a Korean tradition, I’m not surprised that Disney “borrowed” this folklore and incorporated in one of their movies.