When Piano Man was born, I knew that we would throw a birthday party for him. It’s a big milestone for any baby moving into the toddler stage of life. And as a Korean-American family, we wanted to add a Korean cultural element into the party. However, I had no clue as to what entailed a proper first birthday party (aka Korean Dohl/Dol).
During the time of my research (circa 2007-2008), I scoured the Internet to find a morsel of information or photos of what goes into throwing a Korean first birthday party. There were hardly any pictures or blog details that went into throwing a Dohl or even a Dohljabi, a ceremony that allows the baby to choose an item that “predicts” his/her future.
Nowadays, throwing a Doljanchi during a Korean-themed first birthday party is more for fun than anything else, but when Korea faced a mortality rate that took the lives of children before their first birthday, having a first birthday was a big deal. Just take a look at the significantly high infant mortality rate between 1950-1955, according to the UN Population Division. In South Korea, the country suffered 137.95 deaths per 1,000 live births compared to the U.S., which had 30.46 deaths per 1,000 live births. It puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?
On a lighter note, I learned a lot of things about throwing a Dohljanchi from Korean friends who knew more about Korean culture than me. First, there is a difference between a Dohljanchi from a Baek-il (100th day of life party). We threw a simple Baek-il for Piano Man to thank many of our friends who helped us through those tough first weeks of life with our newborn, but we didn’t follow the traditions of a usual Baek-il, such as handing out rice cakes to 100 family friends or placing red bean rice cakes in a compass formation around the house as a sign of protection on the child and family. Nope, that sounded like a lot of work to me.
Piano Man’s Dohl: First Birthday
But when Piano Man’s first birthday came around, I wanted to personalize Piano Man’s party with handmade decorations and party favors. At the time, Piano Man’s favorite books were anything and everything related to Sandra Boynton, so hence, the theme of the party came to fruition.
The party turned out to be a blast, including Prof’s parents flying all the way from the west coast with a huge package of homemade kalbi for the party.
Piano Man wore a special hanbok, traditional Korean outfit, during Dohljabi. Friends wrote down their pick for Piano Man’s favorite item during the party. When the items were revealed before Piano Man, he first chose the pen (which means he will be scholar) and then the drumsticks, my personal favorite, which symbolized music.
Linus’ Dohl : Decision to Make a Dohl Tower
While Piano Man’s Dohljanchi was filled with plenty of personal handmade touches, I didn’t make special Dohl towers for Piano Man’s birthday because: 1) I thought it would take too long to make, and 2) I didn’t know how to make those things. It looked like an impossible DIY project to tackle.
However, I thought I would try to make them for Linus’ birthday. Thankfully, there were two DIY tutorials on how to make a Dohl tower (also known as a Dohl Go Im) when I researched for online tutorials at the time of Linus’ birthday.
Today, if you Google search Dohl party ideas online, you will find a ton of photos. Most people who host/throw a Korean-themed first birthday party usually rent a pre-made Dohl tower from a vendor. After all, who’s going to need a Dohl tower and store them after the first birthday party is over? That was my take on the whole Dohl tower decoration dilemma several years ago. Besides, for those who don’t live close to a Korean party favor store or restaurant vendor, making one seemed like the most viable option.
In my next post, I will share a tutorial of how I made a Dohl tower to decorate a Korean first birthday party.
But for now, enjoy these photos from Linus’ birthday party. It may not be as fancy as some of the beautiful photos that are available on the Internet today, but it’s a birthday party filled with love and joy for a little boy who has blessed our family. (Photos were taken by Kristy Berends.)
(Photo Above: Linus woke up from his nap. He couldn’t sleep all afternoon. I think he knew something was up.)
Having learned our lesson from Piano Man’s Dohljanchi, it’s always better to have food catered for a birthday party of this magnitude. It just takes the pressure and stress off. Although I did manage to squeeze some fresh cut fruit into the buffet mix.)
Our photographer took excellent photos of the day. She perfectly captured moments from the party and the Dohl towers in the foreground.
Now here are photos from Linus’ Dohljabi.
Did Linus choose: 1) thread (long life), 2) pen (scholar), 3) soccer ball (athlete), 4) dollar bill (wealth), 5) Blues Clue piano/keyboard (musician)? See below.
I know, I know. It looks like I rigged the Dohljabi. I knew Linus would pick the Blue Clues piano because he always enjoyed hearing the songs. I tried to not be biased, but come on, a mama’s gotta have some fun in all of this too, right?
From my hometown to yours,