DOL is the celebration of a child’s first year of life, the literal meaning being that they successfully ‘spun’ around for 1-cycle. It is the grandest celebration in a person’s life (at least not for another 59 years read more), with all members of friends and family coming together to celebrate and gather good wishes and blessings. The earliest records of DOL goes back 1500 years, narrating a King celebrating his son’s DOL by conducting Doljabi.
DOLJABI is the activity of laying out multiple items and allowing the child to crawl to it to see what they choose, giving the elders an insight into the child’s future. The traditional items included in Doljabi are as such, and the same items are still used today– though some are now omitted or used with slight modern modifications:
- String/ Noodles: Longevity
- Jujubes: Abundance of offspring (now rarely seen)
- Rice: Material wealth
- Fortune Bag: Wealth of fortune (either Rice or Fortune Bag used))
- Rice Cake (DDUK): Strong health and fortune (now rarely seen)
- Money/ Coins : Wealth
- Bow and Arrow (for boy): Warrior (or a sportsman)
- Ball : Used to replace the Bow and Arrow
- Knife: Chef (now rarely seen)
- Ruler/ Needle: Designer/sewing
- Book. Ink. Brush. Paper. Pencil: Writer/ scholar
- Royal Seal/ Stethoscope/ Gavel: High position/ Doctor/ Lawyer/ Judge, etc.
- 5-Tone Fabrics/ Microphone: Entertainment industry/ Entertainer
Modern Korean families are increasingly adding their own custom additions– especially if there’s a career that runs in the family that isn’t reflected in the traditional items. Some examples include: a toy guitar or piano, a paint brush, a toy airplane, a bible, and even a toy laptop or mouse! The doljabi activity itself is also now often conducted as a fun raffle, so all the guests can participate and make their own predictions.
So at your next doljabi, remember that you’re taking part in a valued Korean tradition that goes back a thousand-and-a-half years! And of course, remember that it doesn’t matter what the child chooses!
(FYI: Story goes with my older brother that it was impossible to decipher what he chose as a baby because he was such a curious, active boy who crawled to the doljabi spread and proceeded to pick-up and play with everything. But the story ends well– he grew up to be a responsible man with a stable career. 🙂 )