Korean 1st Birthday ~ Doljanchi 돌잔치.

Our little Luci Belle is almost 1!  And she is as spunky, animated, and joyful as ever.  As we approached her first birthday, we wanted to celebrate her precious life in a way that would honor traditions that are part of her unique mixed heritage: Korean-Italian-American.  Having been born and raised in South Korea, Steven's mom (who we call "Halmani," meaning "grandmother") is always sharing Korean traditions with us...one of the most important being a child's first Birthday or "Doljanchi."

The Doljanchi is so treasured in Korean culture, because in the old days, many children didn't make it to their first birthday due to poverty, war, hunger, and limited medical care. If a child lived until age one, his or her chances of survival increased significantly.  The first birthday party is a chance to celebrate and bless the child's life with a prosperous future.

We held Luci Belle's Doljanchi in the banquet room of a local Korean restaurant, and it was a blast!  Our little family of three along with Steven's parents all wore traditional Korean dress that his parents purchased all the way in Korea a few months ago.

So, here's how it went...

First, Steven's dad arrived with the outfits, and our friend Paul brought in bunches of colorful balloons...


...and we decorated the entrance with photos from her first year of life.  The photo on the right is her being held in the Moby wrap by Steven's sister Michelle with her husband Cody looking on.  We miss them so much as they're currently serving in the Middle East with Preemptive Love Coalition.

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We got dressed head-to-toe in silk, and out came the birthday girl to greet her guests.  Halmani was really in her element, as you can see!

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A special table was set with fruit and Korean sweets towered high to symbolize prosperity.  

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Well, the pecan bars on the left aren't Korean, but they're one of Steven's mom's specialties.  Can you say buttery shortbread crust?  And those honey-sweetened brown rice balls?  Luscious.

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One thing is for sure - Luci Belle takes after her daddy and is definitely invigorated by being around people! 


Another fun tradition is that each guest gets their photo with the birthday girl.  Here are a few of my favorites...

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Then came the ceremony called the "doljabee" when you lay out certain symbolic items on a table, and whatever item the child picks up first supposedly predicts his or her future career.  We included money (the child will be rich), yarn (symbolizes a long life), a purse (fashion), a whisk (cooking, of course!), a hairbrush (will she be a hairstylist, like Halmani?), a cell phone (business), a camera (photographer), a pencil (supposedly means the child will be a genius!), and a tambourine (musician).  We were sure she was going to pick the whisk...

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...but we were wrong - she went straight for the pencil!  I know it's supposed to symbolize that the child will be a genius, but I'm choosing to believe it means WRITER/genius!  And then of course, she saw the cell phone...


After the doljabee, it was time to eat all that delicious Korean food. Seaweed soup is at every Korean birthday party, no matter what age.  Koreans serve seaweed soup to a new mother right after she births a baby, for nutrients and to help with breastfeeding, just like whales do!  And so they serve it at every birthday as a reminder of what the mother went through to bring her child into the world (can you say 36 hours of labor?  thankyouverymuch).

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There were two kinds of cake - traditional Korean rainbow rice cake (which isn't at all sweet despite how it looks) and a beautifully-decorated butter rum cake from The Cherry Laurel in Athens, TX.


For the rest of the time, we just ate and enjoyed each other and let the little one play to her heart's content.

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Finally, it was time to thank our guests and say bye-bye...

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We'll be celebrating Italian-style with my side of the family in Jersey next month, so stay tuned...


* Many thanks to Erin Fletcher for the photos.