This past fall (yes I am a little late with my posts^^) I was invited to attend a Korean first birthday celebration 돌 잔치 for my lovely friend Eura’s super cute son Siho!

You may remember Eura from my Lolita meetup post a few months ago! She is the sweetest, and naturally an adorable mommy as well ^^

This was my very first time attending a Korean 1st birthday party, and Nara’s as well~ a new experience for the both of us! I snapped a few photos myself, but Eura was so very kind and allowed me to share some of the professional photos from her special event as well!  Hope you will enjoy seeing them!

 I will try to share with you a bit of what I learned~  but expect a much more thorough post about this in the future ^^

Typical 100 day celebration display of fruit, rice cake, etc

Korea has a few important birthday customs~ but the main ones celebrated are the 100th day celebration 백일, 돌 잔치 aka 1st birthday celebration, and the 60th birthday 환갑

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The 100 day birthday celebration 돌잔치 came about in Korea because in the past before modern comforts and medicine infant mortality rate was high, if the baby survived 100 days it was a cause for celebration because he/she had overcome a very fragile period.

Typically 돌잔치 ceremonies are held at big restaurants like buffets or banquets where there are lots of space, and can host a lot of guests. But nowadays there are event rooms (Like Siho’s party) or  halls dedicated to just hosting private events (similar to wedding halls) complete with package deals.

Some of them get very fancy and large, others are simple and held at home, and some are very traditional.  It all depends on the people involved and budget.

Pretty entryway to Siho’s event room~

Of course what celebration would be complete without lots of adorable hanbok photos to display!  Babies in hanbok are always so adorable

Siho’s 100 day event was a bit more modern in style vs others I have seen in the past, often they are a lot more traditional-looking with piles of colorful rice cakes on wooden tables with a folding screen in the background! Nowadays some parents have this style as well! For his party they used very pretty vases with silver balls, flowers, candles, and other lovely decorations that gave a similar feeling as the arrangement of the original tables.

Setting out rice cakes and fruit is customary at this celebration (often the rice cakes are piled positioned where the vases are)  so they had a few peeking out on the table for photos

For those interested in the venue~ it was at the lovey PLAZA hotel overlooking the City Hall (시청광장) field!  Does this field look familiar?  If so, that is because it is the same location that we camped out to watch the Korea VS Japan Olympic soccer game over the summer!

Also check out the cute cake for the event with Siho in his hanbok~finished off with a hanbok style bow at the bottom!! Eura had this custom-made with fondant, it came out really nice I think!

Generally at these events what happens is you have a gathering of friends and family who all come with a gift of money (slightly less that at weddings,  usually around 50000 won), sometimes photo slide shows are shown, people eat, they cut a cake and sing happy birthday, photos are snapped, and everyone goes home. It seems to often be a bit routine like weddings here and mainly for the family and adults.

Some more traditional Korean Doljabee items the baby can pick from

The main draw to this event is the Doljabee 돌잡이 ceremony!  잡이 means “grabbing/grasp” in Korean, which makes a lot of sense because this is an event the baby actually participates in with grabbing an item of his/her choice! Doljabee items are laid out on the table in from of the baby and whichever he or she picks up will be in their future, or help predict it.

While Korea has a few traditional items, they do change around depending on the family~ some of the more typical traditional ones are thread, money, calligraphy pens, bow & arrow, good luck pouch, rice, among several others.  The meanings of these can vary a little bit depending on the parents, but it is really easy to understand… money for wealth, string for long life, bow for being a brave powerful general, pen for being a scholar etc.  Rice or cakes being used can mean the baby will never go hungry~  they tend to put only objects that represent positive fortune.

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Nara picked out a pencil and became an artist while his brother picked out money and is a businessman now haha. So it kind of turned out as their fortune foretold ^^

more recently you can find other things placed in like a Microphone, sports ball, golf clubs, computer mouse, stethoscope, etc. Ask any Korean and see what they picked out as a baby, it is often very amusing!

Siho’s  items to select for his 돌 잡이 were

Bowl of rice– to stay well fed in life
Pencils– to be a good student
Gavel– to work in law
Thread– for long life
Stethoscope– to be a doctor

In the entryway they had an arrangement of glasses set out for guests to play a game~  ^^  each card has a number and what item Siho would pick from the table at the 돌잡이 ceremony. The winning number out of the ballot that guessed correctly would win a prize!!  This is apparently a very common game to play at    돌잔치 100 day birthday nowadays.

Around this time Siho was very sleepy and ready for his nap so he was not very interested in playing at first and instead grabbed his hat off lol.  Finally after a bit of fussing he grabbed the pencil~ yay!  Hopefully his fortune will come true and he will be a good student or do something wonderful with pencils like become a writer or an artist!

Just for fun, they gave him the long life string too hehe he would rather have a nap though!

After the ceremony it was time for a family cake cutting.

This cake cutting routine happens during weddings here in Korea and I have seen it shown in other modern 100 day birthday celebrations as well,  it is something that kinda came in from the west and worked its way into a few ceremonies however sometimes the cake is just a prop so you do not get to eat any and it is just for photos!  Since 100th day celebrations are a lot smaller in size normally they tend to pass out cake a bit more often~ people were actually served the cake that was cut at Siho’s 돌잔치 although it was not this one, it was the fancy fondant one with the little sculpture from above! ^^ Eura likes being able to pass out cake, so she had the one for eating made special to serve!

Time for some final family group photos!

Just like with weddings in Korea, at 100-day celebrations held in event rooms like this you can usually expect a meal either buffet style or sit down~ buffets being way more common because a lot of guests come with children.  They had a lot to choose from at Siho’s party~PLAZA hotel in Seoul had really yummy catering.

Nara naturally was very excited to eat haha

My plate!!  Yum Yum♥

Following dinner, they had some beautiful treats set out!

I can not refuse pretty cakes and tarts *__*

 When it was finally time to leave they had gifts for the guests set out very pretty in the hall!  Can you guess what this gift was?

Salt! Proceeds went to a charity for UNICEF as well, what a kind gift!  It was really nice sea salt too, so I have a huge supply for cooking now… it will last me a while! Apparently this is a common gift to give guests because salt used to be very valuable in Korea back in the day.

they also had one more gift set out for us!  Pink box for me and blue box for Nara hehe

Look at the wing handles on this packaging~ could it get any cuter??? I wonder what is inside…

Adorable rice cake duk!!  Traditionally it was believed in Korea that if you shared rice cakes with 100 people at the 100 day celebration the baby would live a long life, I’m not sure if this carries over to 돌잔치 celebration or not though! ^^

 Nara and I want to thank Eura and her family for inviting us to share in this special day, it was a really fun 돌잔치 experience!  We Hope little Siho has a long and happy life with many more birthday cakes to come

Have you ever attended a Korean first birthday before?  What was it like?  What interesting things did you see or learn?  What item did the baby pick?? If you are Korean or married to a Korean, what did you our your spouse pick?  Did it come true? Comment below!!

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12 Responses to “Siho’s First Birthday 돌잔치 celebration”

  • Custom avatar Cheryl:

    I love this post. I love this tradition a lot. I’m not Korean, but if I have a child, I would very much like to do something similar. There’s something special about wishing for the future and involving friends and family.

  • Custom avatar Danielle:

    This is so sweet! Thank you for sharing!
    My little girl’s 1st birthday is next month. I had so much fun designing her invite for it. I’m thrilled, and inspired by this post! 🙂

  • Custom avatar HangukWife:

    Just FYI – The 100th day (백일) and first birthday (돌잔치) are two totally different celebrations.

    100th day happens after 100 days…. 1st birthday happens after a year…

    • Elle:

      With the extra time Koreans add on for birthdays Nara and I kinda spaced out about 돌잔치 not being the 100 day event, you are totally right though they are two different things at different times~ whoops! I’ll be re-wording the post a bit, thank you

  • Custom avatar bunny:

    His birthday celebration is awesome!!! Your blog is awesome^^!

  • beautiful!
    my baby girl’s first birthday seems like it pales in comparison! hahahaha i feel a little guilty. 😉
    thanks for another informative post full of eye candy!

  • Custom avatar Victoria woods:

    He is the cutest 1year-old ever! 😉
    Thanks for such an in depth look at the Korean culture. It’s really neat to see all the cool traditions.
    I love the choosing ceremony & the gift of salt is really interesting.
    Thanks for the cuteness overload. Lol

  • Custom avatar H:

    That is so cute and interesting! I love the adorable cake. Wondering if you are going to make a post about the recent news/threats from N Korea and what the atmosphere is like there in the South? I wonder how S Koreans deal with news like this since there have obviously been threats before, are these being taken more/less seriously?

    • Elle:

      Hi H 🙂 I dont really handle news or hot topics here, mainly its for fun and cute things which is why I don’t tend to post very personal or negative news/posts/opinions etc. North makes threats ALL the time and they pretty much are ignored here by the general population because they are always just noise and them sticking it to America. Actually it seems my parents hear more about what they say than I do right here in Korea, it seems that the western media has been covering it very intensely the last few years. We have a new pres. here though, so who knows… but its kinda been the same routine for the last several years that I have been coming here.

  • Very informational and lovely pictures 🙂 I haven’t been to a Korean one but I have been to Chinese ones.

  • Custom avatar JR:

    Hi Elle. These pictures are beautiful! My wife and I are thinking of having our daughter’s first birthday party in Seoul (my wife is originally from Korea). Are there other hotels you’ve heard of that put on particularly nice Dol parties?


    • Elle:

      Hi JR, Really it is such a common ceremony that almost every hotel has rooms with rates for this event. They also have halls with rooms just for dol parties as well, these are usually a little smaller but I enjoy them a little more. I cant list any by name since they are really everyplace, but if your wife asks some of her family or friends I am sure she will find dozens depending on her budget. I have yet to go to a bad party, some are just more expensive vs others and really it only seems to show in the quality of the buffet food more than anything lol

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