Background on Informant:
Currently a student, my informant grew up in a Korean household and has shared with me the many traditions she grew up practicing and experienced throughout her life.
“I’m not really sure what the history behind it is but every year on your birthday, you need to eat seaweed soup or Miyeokguk (미역국) It’s a tradition that I’m pretty sure every Korean has practiced or at least heard about.
Some typical ingredients include: beef, oysters or clam, sesame seeds, scallions, sometimes shrimp, soy sauce, broth, and many others.
It is meant to symbolize or rather it means that by eating it you will live another year healthy and prosperous.
I know that traditionally this type of soup also helps with metabolism, purifying blood, and detoxing which is probably why when you eat it, it’s supposed to increase your health.
My mom usually prepares it for me but my parents will prepare it for themselves on their birthdays to show gratitude to their mothers.
Although there is one exception to this — you can’t eat it on a day of a big exam or it mean you will fail.”
Food is a great way of preserving cultural identity and tradition. I loved learning about the tradition of Miyeokguk (미역국) and the history behind it. I loved how it serves as a connection to the mother and how much it is valued. I love how it serves to honor mothers and the wisdom behind the prosperous life is one that a lot of other birthday traditions also practice. Overall, I enjoyed learning more about a small part of Korean culture and the importance it places on birthdays, mothers, and prosperous living.