Sunday, May 23, 2010

First Birthday Party

In Korean culture, the first birthday party is a very important occasion. Parents generally throw a big catered party at a function hall and invite lots of people, not unlike a wedding just on a slightly smaller scale. And, just like a wedding, you've got to put your cash gift into the little, white envelope. The boyfriend was invited to his friend's baby's first birthday party on Saturday. In fact, this is the same baby I saw just after she was born just a year ago.

If you go to one of these parties, after greeting the family, first thing first, you got to eat your fill of all the free food at the buffet. I'm generally not a huge fan of Korean style buffets, but I can still get myself full on the few edible things there. If you like Korean style sushi, raw beef (that's a delicacy, you know), rice cake and various types of meat in mystery sauce, you'll be in heaven.

You'll probably see a photographer going around getting pictures of guests and eventually the baby fully dressed in hanbok (traditional Korean clothes).

Finally the main events will start. At this party, they first showed a slide show of of the baby's first year. Then they introduced the parents and the baby and they made a grand entrance. Once situated at the front table, we had a cheers to the baby. Then we all clapped and sang happy birthday to the baby. There was some cake that was cut, but I don't understand why there's always a cake at these events, but no one ever gets to eat the cake. In America, if we're gona cut a cake in front of everybody, we'd better be sure we have enough that everyone in the room is going to get some of that cake.

Anyway, the main event of the party, and the one that always makes it into Korean language/culture books is the selection of one object that will predict the child's future occupation or ambitions. In theory, if the baby is given the option of several objects, he or she will pick the one they are most attracted to, showing the child's nature. Parents can pick any objects they like, so its slightly biased as to the parent's wishes for the child.. hehe..

Anyway, at this party, there were several objects layed out for the baby to chose. First was yarn, representing longevity. Next was a pencil for hard studying. Next was a stethoscope, if she might want to enter a medical profession. After that was a microphone representing a career in entertainment. And last was money... for which I don't think I need to explain the symbolism.

The baby chose.... the pencil! She's going to be a great student! Or maybe she just likes long pointed objects. One or the other.

Other gifts I've heard of are an arrow symbolizing a warrior or a computer mouse suggesting some sort of career in computers. Have you heard of any other interesting gifts?

After this, there were some door prizes offered to some for the number ticket they received at the door, and to others for guessing how many teeth the baby has or how much she weighed at birth. Once this was over, the party, too, was basically over. We stayed around a little longer to chat, but most folks zoomed out pretty fast. The whole ordeal was less than 2 hours long. And we arrived late too...

While exiting, we were each given free towels as a gift of sorts. I now have such a collection of towels from various events I've attended in Korea that it's nearly blog worth in itself. I'll wait 'til I get one or two more towels, though, to make it a really amazing towel blog post.

Have you been to a Korean first birthday party? Was anything done differently than at this one?

1 comment:

  1. Never been to a 'first birthday' party - but the game where the baby chooses a thing with a symbolic thing is classic. I've also heard of using a block for becoming an architect or engineer, an apple for becoming a teacher, etc.