Emily's Korean hanbok. Photo by Michiko Yoon.
Foodie | Motherhood

Emily’s First Birthday (돌)

August 21, 2018

Emily is officially one-year-old this summer! Her grandmother bought her a beautiful silk hanbok (한복) to wear for her birthday. This is a traditional Korean dress that a baby wears when she becomes one-year-old.

Koreans celebrate one year as a milestone because hundreds of years ago not many babies survived to that age. The first year party is thrown in place of a baby shower.

Emily 1st Birthday Panda Cake. Photo by Michiko Yoon.
Happy 1st Birthday Emily!

In Korea, the first birthday party is a big affair and families rent out upscale party rooms and have as many people as possible come to the party. The baby chooses between several items that represent their future in  a “doljabi” ceremony (돌잡이) where the baby is placed in front of a table of foods and objects such as string, paint, book, a basketball, money, etc. If the baby picks up the book, she will be smart. If she picks up money, she will be wealthy, and if she picks up food, she will not be hungry. If she picks up the thread then she will live a long life.

I was interested in honoring Korean traditions, but my husband did not want to have a large party with too many people. Emily is a baby, after all. She doesn’t need a huge party to feel special. We kept it small.

It was a mixture of American and Korean traditions, with the American custom of giving presents (Koreans give envelopes of cash) and way too much Korean buffet food.

We got a cute panda cake from Shilla Korean bakery in Annandale, Virginia and let Emily smash her  piece of cake between her fingers. We don’t normally let her eat sweets, so this was a nice treat for her.

Photo by Sang-Min Yoon
Korean buffet for Emily’s first year birthday party. Delicious soy garlic Korean fried chicken, dok rice cakes, japchae glass noodles, kimbap rolls, baked salmon and pasta.


Photo by Michiko Yoon
Emily smashing her birthday cake.

It was a really good idea to keep the party small. I think having more than 10 people surrounding my daughter would have overwhelmed her.

Emily enjoyed opening all her gifts and playing with the wrapping paper. We had a photo session afterwards with my daughter in her hanbok.

So happy Emily had fun on her first birthday!

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