Korean Doljanchi


JK: In Korea there is a particular celebration for 1-year olds. Korean “doljanchi” is the first birthday celebration. Technically Koreans view birthdays in different times than Western cultures but the first year birthday is very important. The 1-year old is dressed in very traditional clothing and so are the guests, they wear hanboks. There is a lot of fruit everywhere and rice cakes. One of the most important things is the baby choosing an item. There are a lot of things laid out in front of the baby, money, paintbrush, stethoscope, gavel, that sort of thing. Then whatever the baby grabs or touches is meant to influence their future in Korea. For example if they grab a pencil, they’re gonna be a scholar, if they grab money they are going to be rich.


JK’s family is Korean as well and he participated in this culture as a baby. He grabbed the pencil and money. He doesn’t know if it influenced his future, but he is here pursuing higher education and “hopefully the money will come in soon.”


Other cultures have similar coming of age rituals that are conducted on a child’s birthday. These rituals are meant to determine a child’s future and celebration of their first milestone. Most cultures have a birthday celebration meant to recognize when a child becomes an adult, such as a quinceanera or a bar mitzvah. This specific divination ritual is practiced in other cultures as well, notably in China. Other Asian cultures have varying rituals for the first birthday. In India, the child’s head is shaved to purify them of any evil committed in a past life. This ritual is heavily influenced by the large presence of Hinduism in India.