Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Korean First Birthday Celebrations Popular--Even in a Changing Society

First birthdays (called chut-tol) are very significant family events in Korea. Family, friends and co-workers are invited to the event.

Some Insights
A highlight of this celebration is a tradition where the child symbolically foretells their own future.

For this ritual, the child is dressed in new traditional Korean clothes. The child is seated before a table of various foods and objects such as thread, books, notebooks, brushes, ink and money which have all been given to the family by friends and relatives. The child is urged to pick up an object from the table, as it is believed the one selected first will foretell the child's future. If the child picks up a writing brush or book, for example, he is destined to be a scholar. If he picks up money or rice, he will be wealthy; cakes or other food, a government official; a sword or bow, a military commander. If the child picks up the thread, it is believed he will live a long life.

Following the ritual, family and friends sing and play with the toddler. Guests also present gifts of money, clothes, or gold rings to the parents for the child at this time. When leaving, guests are given packages of rice cakes and other foods to take with them. This sharing of rice cakes is thought to bring the child long life and happiness.

With urban life and both parents often working, venue for the first birthday is shifting from home and banquet halls to local restaurants.

Korea Times notes.
After a 2006 marriage boom pushed by the lucky ``ssangchunnyeon,'' (two springs in a year), newly-weds were in a rush to give birth in time for the propitious 2007 golden pig year ― all of which brought good money to related businesses. Now, a year later, who's next in line to reap the benefits?

Local restaurants and catering services say, starting with the onset of 2008, they're already booked up months in advance for first birthday events of the golden pig babies.

``We're completely booked every weekend from now until April,'' said a sales manager of a popular first birthday venue in southern Seoul. He declined to be named, citing worries that future customers might misconceive that the restaurant is ``always, too busy.''

Family restaurants, including T.G.I. Fridays and Bennigan's, hotels and buffet houses are some of the top picks for first birthday bashes.

So, exactly how many babies are expected to blow out their first candle this year?

The National Statistical Office (NSO) says some 500,000 newborns, up 50,000 from 2006, were delivered in 2007, the auspicious golden pig year, which is supposed to bring prosperity, fortune and good health.

While moms traditionally home-cooked their child's No. 1 birthday feast, a growing number of working parents decided that throwing a party outside or ordering readymade food is an easy and fun way to go.

Lee Jung-hee, a spokeswoman of Doljunbi, a party planner of babies' first birthdays, said they've been getting inquiries and orders starting last year from early bird mothers who wanted to ensure accommodations are set.

``We got orders for 2008 March birthdays last September, so these moms really planned ahead, keeping in mind of the baby boom,'' she said, adding that the company's 600,000 won [US $600] ``full-set'' birthday feast decorated with fruits, candles and balloons is their best-selling product.

A party planner for Partyro, another event specialty company, said, ``The couples that were married in 2006 are continuing to pass on the sales benefits from one business to the next. I wonder who'll take the gains next.''



  1. Hi Don! It's Karen from Kia. Awesome blog & interesting entries. Definitely will be coming back again! See ya.

  2. Thanks. Glad you visited. Please share with the Kia Team.

  3. Anonymous7:16 PM

    Don, My nephew is American-Korean. I was wondering if there is a special gift given for a boy's third b'day? should you get this by 11/24AM would you mind emailing me the reply direct to mackenzieclan(at)hotmail(dot)com. Many thanks. CAS