Norah's Doljanchi 돌잔치 (Korean First Birthday).

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Just one of the many fun things about being married to a (half) Korean is the element of tradition.  The biggest celebration in a Korean's life is the first birthday, or "doljanchi."  We threw a big party for Luci Belle's doljanchi 3.5 years ago and now it was Norah's turn! 

Steven's parents couldn't make it this time because they are currently living in Seoul, South Korea, but we were thankful to be surrounded by family and friends here at our house for the party - it was a blast!

First, a little background...

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.

The decorations

I scoured Pinterest and blogs to find ways to make doljanchi decorations that honored the tradition but didn't cost a lot of dough.  One of the most popular things to DIY are the "dol towers" which we made using black and white beans hot-glued to paper towel rolls.  Let me repeat, beans hot-glued to paper towel rolls.  Like, one at a time.  The fronts of each tower were glued by my saint-like and ever-patient cousins Paula and Colleen who came to visit from NJ a week before the party.  God bless them.

The tower on the left says "first birthday," with a number "1" on top, and the tower on the right says "Norah" with a heart on top.

I got a few sheets of Asian flowery wrapping paper from Paper Source and taped them down the length of our farm table as the runner.  A few more things I made for the event - a banner with 13 flags on it, each one with a photo from Norah's life from newborn to 12 months.  I also created a posterboard explaining more about the doljanchi and included this awesome photo of Steven at his doljanchi in 1980 with his mom holding him.  Hello, baby Norah in boy form!

And because there's no such thing as too many banners in my opinion, I made a fabric scrap banner to hang from the main doorway between the living room and dining room using my old saris from my trip to India.  Love how it turned out.

The food

Of course we had to have Korean food!  So Steven was able to enjoy the party and not be slaving in the kitchen the whole time, we had the food catered from H Mart, a huge Korean marketplace in Dallas.  He was a wee bit excited when he went to order the food and sliiiightly over-ordered.  As in, every single person left with a huge to-go box and we still had Korean pancakes for days.  My favorites were the chicken fried rice, bulgogi (thin strips of heavenly marinated beef with veggies), and chop che (glassy rice noodles).  One of our party guests, sweet little Graham Patterson (age 2) absolutely loved the fried shrimp.  Every time I saw him, he was holding one in his fist and crunching on it like it was a carrot stick. 

Bowl of seaweed, anyone?

Yeah, me either.

The birthday girl

Our sweet birthday girl decided to take an extra long nap on the day of her birthday party - of course!  She awoke about 30 minutes after the party started, so I got her dressed quietly in her room so I didn't overwhelm her from the start.  The light was, as our photographer friend Michelle said, "delicious," so we took a few fun photos during this time.

The watery post-nap eyes and puffy flushed cheeks...I can't even handle it...

I love how little Luci Belle looks in this photo too.  Time, thank you for slowing down just a little.

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The Bailey four...

The partay

When our little photo shoot was over, it was time to take the birthday girl out to see her guests.  Norah seriously had no idea what was going on all day.  How am I supposed to walk in this dress?  Why is a butterfly plastered to my forehead?  Oooh - balloon!  She latched on to an orange balloon and would not let it go.  She barely cracked a smile and was just taking it all different from Luci Belle's doljanchi where she was hamming it up the whole time!  My sweet babies have such different personalities, and I love that.

Then came the ceremony called the "doljabee" when you lay out certain symbolic items in front of the child, and whatever item the child picks up first supposedly predicts his or her future career.  We included a camera (photographer), money (the child will be rich), a whisk (cooking, of course!), yarn (symbolizes a long life), a pencil (supposedly means the child will be a genius!  Or as I like to think, a writer...), a Doc McStuffins stethoscope (doctor), and a cell phone (my mom's ancient flip phone so she wouldn't immediately grab the iPhone, as all todders do). 

Bonus points for anyone who knows who's wearing the fabulous red tights with black peep-toe heels. Hmm...

She looked at the items on the floor, then scanned the room looking at all the faces staring at her.  She looked at us like, "What?  What am I supposed to do with this?"

We waited.  And stared.

Then, I had an idea!  She was so into apples and always grabbed mine when I had one and wanted to take a bite.  Although definitely not on the traditional list of items for the doljabee, I thought we could throw our unique Bailey spin on the game and add an apple (farmer/foodie!) and see if she if it made her take action.

As soon as we put the apple in front of her, she picked up the pencil (just like her sister!)...

...and reached over and tapped it on the apple.

Food writer??

Genius farmer??

We all cheered.  She just kept looking at us like we were crazy and held onto the apple for dear life.

And so, for the rest of the party, we let her play with her buddies and annihilate an entire Hail Merry chocolate tart.

And the owner of the red tights is...yup...MIMI!  Love her.

What a fun day celebrating our sweet Norah Jewell!