Birthdays are a time of celebration. A majority of us are used to a cake or cupcakes, the dreaded embarrassment of waiters coming to sing “Happy Birthday” to you, and not knowing how to act, and just spending time with friends and family. Many cultures around the world have traditions that are unique. For example, in Latin America quinceaneras are a celebration of a young girl turning fifteen, and China has a tradition of eating long noodles for longevity; but what does South Korea do to celebrate? Here are some traditions below!

  • 100th-Day

On the 100th day after a baby’s birth, parents will celebrate if the baby is in good health. This tradition started many years ago when the infant mortality rate was very high due to a lack of medical advances and diseases. When a child would hit a 100 days of life, parents celebrated this milestone. In the modern era, many families still keep this tradition alive and have parties to celebrate with family and friends. Miyeok-guk, which is a seaweed soup, rice cakes, and wine are consumed at these parties. 

  • Doljanchi

Doljanchi is the celebration of a baby’s first birthday. On the day of the party, the baby is dressed in a traditional hanbok, and a ceremony called Doljabi takes place. A plethora of objects are placed in front of the child, and once the child picks one, that will be their profession when they grow up or their future. Objects may include a stethoscope (doctor), money (wealth), a book (smart or scholar), and/or a gavel (judge). Over the years, parents have added new modernized items but still use traditional ones.

  • 60th, 70th, 80th Birthdays

The history behind 60th,70th, and 80th birthdays are relatively the same as the 100th day. Many years ago, people normally did not live past sixty, so when someone did, a large and lavish party was held in their honor. Now, people live past sixty and do not throw big lavish parties as much. Instead, many have smaller celebrations with friends and family. When someone hits their 70th and 80th birthday, bigger parties are then held. 

In modern Korea, a majority of people will celebrate with a fresh cream cake that is topped with strawberries and a dinner out with friends and family. There are even games one would play at dinner. One game is where at the end of dinner, everyone at that table — except the person with the birthday — will add anything and everything to a cup of soju. The birthday man or woman then has to drink it. Some friends and family will go light on the ingredients whereas others show no mercy. 

Now that you have read about key birthday celebrations in Korea, how do you and your family celebrate birthdays? Do you have any cultural traditions or family traditions? Let us know in the comments below!

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Written by Brianna Giles

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