In Korea, everyone eats seaweed soup on their birthdays as it brings them a good year and also a long life.
My informant stated that ever since she could remember, her mother would make her seaweed soup on her birthday. She stated that when she asked her mother why every year and on everyone’s birthday they eat this soup, she stated “By eating this soup on your birthday, you will live a longer life.” When I asked my informant where this belief came from, she stated that the long seaweed represents a longer life line. She also stated that pregnant mothers eat this soup once a day for a month during their pregnancy, so that their child will live a long life.
My informant states that she keeps this ritual alive as she makes this soup for her children every year for their birthdays. I believe that this belief came from the nutritional value of seaweed. Seaweed is also a very affordable and cheap food for people in Korea. I believe that in the poorer areas of Korea, seaweed was easily attainable and thus became a staple for birthdays and in general for subsistence. The symbology of eating a long piece of food on one’s birthday to elongate the eater’s life is also a nice symbol.