A Korean first birthday is commonly known as Dol by Koreans. Doljanchi means a Korean first birthday party or celebration and is a part of traditional Korean culture.
Choose a theme for your Doljanchi
When preparing for a Doljanchi, a theme maintains congruency which helps with efficient planning and preparation.
You can make the theme based on color. Pink for girls and blue for boys, for example. (A theme based on a color takes the least amount of work and provides a lot of flexibility. The only caveat is you may deal with too many options which can cause choice overload.)
You can also choose your theme based on the Chinese Zodiac animal associated with the year of your baby.
If you prefer a completely different theme, that's okay too! I've seen modern Dol parties based on objects like airplanes :)
Choosing a theme will really help with the next steps which are:
It's a very common practice for hosts of Doljanchi to set up a Doljabi Sign and Poster for their guests. A Doljabi Sign provides a brief explanation of Doljanchi and the meaning of Doljabi for those who are unfamiliar with the tradition.
Decorating your Dol Tables
Putting time into decorating your Dol Tables is extremely important. They usually make the first and a big impression of your Dol Party because they are significant to Doljanchi.
The first table is the small welcoming table that should display your Doljabi Sign with your baby's picture, Raffle Tickets, Jars with labels of each item in your Doljabi Set, and a few decorations to make it look pretty. (I like using flowers, but it's up to you.)
On the large table, you should have 2 trays of fruit, your Dol tower, two trays of rice cakes, your Doljabi Set, a seat for your baby, additional decorations like vases of flowers, and a backdrop behind the table. Nowadays, people use bunting flags and additional decorations and I highly suggest you consider them!
Preparing for Doljabi Raffle
The Doljabi Raffle is a highlight for a lot of the guests. It lets them participate in your event and allows them to enjoy your Doljanchi together with you.
Invited guests are all provided 1 raffle ticket and they're asked to vote on the first item or first few items they think your baby will choose during Doljabi.
As the host, you'll create either raffle boxes or jars for each item in your Doljabi Set and ask your guests to rip a piece of their Raffle Ticket with their name and insert them into the jar of their choice.
After Doljabi, when the atmosphere is near its peak, I highly suggest you make an announcement for declaring a winner of the raffle. You can choose to have one winner or a couple of winners, and make sure to have gifts prepared!
Preparing Dol Party Favors
Thanking the guests for coming to your baby's first birthday party through a party favor is always well received. And it's always better to have a gift that's thoughtful. The gift hinges on your relationship with your guests, the current situation of the world, and what you think the majority of your guests will appreciate. Get creative and have fun!
Is there a dress code for Dol?
In Korea, only children and their parents wear a Hanbok, but nowadays, only the baby is required to wear a Dol Hanbok. Hanboks are expensive so if you prefer to keep your costs down, you and your spouse don't have to wear one.
A baby boy usually wears a long-sleeved shirt with a variety of colors around the arm area, a vest, pants, a hoodie on his head, and a traditional kind of shoes that matches the Hanbok. Dol belts were used in the past but they're not as common now.
A baby girl wears a special long-sleeved shirt that has many colors on the area of the arm, a long skirt, a hoodie on her head, and a traditional shoe that matches her Hanbok.
What Foods Should I Provide in My Baby's Doljanchi?
Your guests will likely come hungry so you'll also want to consider the type of food you'll provide.
Traditionally, Doljabi was celebrated among family members and they shared seaweed soup on the morning of the baby's first birthday.
Nowadays, people serve food that appeals to their guests but some still serve seaweed soup on the side to preserve the tradition of Doljanchi.
The food on the large Dol table (fruit and rice cakes) are usually served after Doljabi and pictures of your baby are taken.
The rice cakes are a tradition that is usually kept which signifies good luck for the child. Eating the rice cake is an expression of your guests wishing your baby to be pure like the color of the rice cakes.
Seasonal fruits are used and a variety of them because they simply look good in combination on the Dol table and they are usually eaten afterward!
The Highlight of Doljanchi - Doljabi
Doljabi is the main highlight of a Dol party, and you have two options for Doljabi sets.
A Traditional Doljabi Set usually has items that are associated with values and fortune in areas such as health, personal finances, intellect, and good offspring.
A Modern Doljabi Set usually has items that are associated with future careers like an entertainer, computer engineer, doctor, and successful entrepreneur.
There are tons of different kinds of Doljabi items and they're only a search away! You just want to make sure that you have at least 5 items and no more than 7.
Extra Feature - Provide a Video and/or Photo Slideshow for your baby and guests
Since the first birthday party is an event that accepts a baby as a member of society, the growth of a child in the first year is often made into a photo slide show or a video.
It also contains a letter from the parents to the baby that contains a pledge from the parents on how they'll raise the baby. It's definitely a part of Doljanchi that enriches the experiences of everyone including the hosts.
It might take time and effort to put this together, but it'll be worth the smiles of your guests and personal satisfaction that you went the extra step for your baby.
A Korean first birthday party is a fantastic way to enjoy Korean culture together, and preparation for it only enhances the experience for everyone.
I hope you found this helpful and more importantly, have fun preparing for your Dol Party!