As a white American married to a Korean American, I’m still learning everyday what it means to raise a son who is equal parts both of us. As a result, it’s very important to my husband and I that our son learns just as much about Korean culture as American culture. However, this has proved an uphill battle since we live in the US. One of the ways we decided to incorporate Korean culture into his life was through the 100 Day Traditional Celebration. Read more about that in this post. But for his first birthday we decided to go halfsies and have an American and Korean side to our party. You can read all about our American National Park Themed Party on this post. But today I’m focusing on the formidable Doljabi party.
Koreans go hard for the first birthday. It is a celebration unlike any other for the rest of the child’s life. Sadly, our son will have no memory of this other than pictures, but honestly the first birthday party is for the adults right? 🙂 If you’re unfamiliar with the term “doljabi” I’m going to refer to this well put definition from a website I found incredibly useful in planning our party. “Doljabi is a tradition where the child is placed in front of various items or objects (Usually 6 – 8 items). Then, the child is encouraged to grab one or two items from the set of objects where each choice represents a certain future of the child with respect to his or her career or a lifestyle.”
So what are the key components of any doljabi? The #1 priority is the doljabi table:
How to Create a Doljabi Table:
- First, you need to select what your professions will be. We did a round 1 and 2. Round 1 was the traditional doljabi choices Koreans would have used back in the day: 1) bow and arrow for courage, 2) string for long life, 3) pen or pencil for scholar, 4) stethoscope for doctor and 5) coins for wealth. Round 2 you can get crazy with modern career choices. We chose a computer mouse for something in IT, dog for veterinarian, DVDs for actor, a tie for business, and a frisbee for professional frisbee player (my husband is an Ultimate addict). If you don’t have some of these items on hand, Amazon does cute toy versions just for Doljabi like this, this and this.
- Create your doljabi sign explaining all the choices for your guests. My husband is a PowerPoint whiz and created our sign totally on this program with free online clipart. We had it printed on poster board at Staples. If you’re not good at this sort of thing and don’t mind spending some money you can check out doljabi signs on Etsy.
- Next you need to create the game part of the doljabi. All your guests get to guess which item the child will pick. We just cut up computer paper for guests to write their names on and then they stuck them in the red bags you see above that corresponded to their guess. I also printed up instructions to idiot proof it. 🙂 Once your child has selected for each round, you draw a name from the correct bag and that guest wins a prize! We did Amazon gift cards.
How to Create Dol Towers:
The dol tower (Dol Go-Im) used to only be used in Korean celebrations of the 60th and 70th birthdays. Now Korean parents love to use them as decorations for first birthday parties and typically you’ll have a picture of the animal of the Korean year the child was born in and your child’s Korean name. Our son is year of the rooster and his Korean name in Minho. You can see the results here:
There are many methods to making Dol Towers, but I would say none of them are easy or fast. We spent many hours making these with a lot of late nights while our son was sleeping. For us, it was a labor of love and we hope our son will treasure these as he grows up, but I also understand if you don’t have the time. If not, Etsy again has tons of options you can customize and buy. Word of warning, they’re not cheap and now that we’ve made these we know why!
So without further ado, here are the steps to creating your very own Dol Towers:
- Concrete form tube from local hardware store
- Bag of dried white beans
- Bag of dried black beans
- Spray paint in whatever colors you desire – we used this brand
- Hot glue and glue gun – try this one
- Cardboard box to cut tops of tower from
- Printouts of your child’s Korean name and Zodiac sign from this website
- First, use a handsaw to cut the concrete form tube into four separate towers.
- Next, draw circles using the cut tower as a template to cut out lids for the towers.
- Use hot glue gun to secure the lid to the towers.
- Print out templates for your child’s name and zodiac sign using the website above. It is a really awesome resource for planning a Doljabi party!
- Use glue stick to attach the templates in the center of your towers.
- Determine what colors you will need for your zodiac picture. Spray paint some of your white beans those colors. Definitely do this outside on newspaper as it gets messy! Let the beans dry overnight.
- Start hot gluing your beans in the desired patterns. This is the most tedious part of the process, but we found it therapeutic after awhile. 😉
- Finally, admire your beautiful handiwork.
Lastly, you’ll need for an authentic looking Doljabi party is to set up the table and floor area where your child will select their profession. We were lucky enough to be able to borrow pretty much everything you see above from my in-laws. None of this is mandatory and you can decorate the area anyway you like, just make it festive!
You may also want to consider either renting or purchasing hanboks or traditional Korean dress for your child or the whole family! We already had hanboks for everyone that my in-laws brought back from Korea, but you definitely can find places in the US that do rentals or purchases. Here we are in our hanboks:
And here is our son picking the frisbee, much to his father’s delight.
I hope this post gives you lots of inspiration for your Doljabi party. If you’ve already hosted a Doljabi, please comment below with any tips and ideas!