Korean birthdays customs traditions

Korean Birthdays | Customs, Traditions and More

Want to know how Korean birthdays are celebrated? I’ve listed out some customs, traditions, and Korean birthday traditions food that form an important part of these celebrations.

How do you typically commemorate and spend your birthday? Birthday gifts and presents are provided as a tradition in many cultures, and birthday cakes are a need. 

You can be the type of person that enjoys spending peaceful, quality time with family, including a great family supper and board games. 

Related: How Christmas And Easter Are Celebrated In Korea

Related: Here’s What’s Special About The 100 Days Celebration In Korea 

Or you can be the type of person that wants to rent out a large party space and have a huge birthday celebration where everyone has a good time and wishes you many good wishes while also honouring your unique day. 

The best way to celebrate a birthday is up to you, and depending on where you are, there are different birthday traditions and customs. What about birthday celebrations for Koreans?

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Birthdays are highly celebrated in Korea, particularly the first and 60th ones!

These are referred to as “Dol” or the first birthday and “Hwangap” or the 60th birthday. 

In Korea, people obsess over their age since the culture places certain milestones at particular ages. 

People in this country constantly believe that they are getting older because the Korean age is one or two years greater than the international age. 

The younger they are, the more significance their birthdays have for them in South Korea (you’ll frequently hear a 25-year-old Korean declare she/he is too old! Whaaa… ). 

In addition, Koreans celebrate their real birth date similarly to western countries because age is significant in their society.

Korean Birthdays, Customs and Traditions

According to studies, Koreans tend to like more compact birthday treats. While gatherings with relatives are traditional, birthday parties are more frequently hosted by a group of close friends, particularly among teenagers and young Koreans. 

For both students and middle-aged workers, drinking establishments—known in Korean as “pochas”—rank highly on the list of preferred birthday party locations in Korea. 

A traditional Korean birthday celebration begins with friends gathering in a pocha the night before the birthday to spend the final few hours until their friend turns one year older.

Korean birthdays customs traditions

If you walk into any random bar, there’s a good chance that you’ll see a group of individuals sharing a sizable birthday cake on a table with several of Korea’s famous soju green bottles nearby. 

Although I believe that ordering customised birthday cakes in advance, particularly in Western nations, you can merely forgo the inconvenience to do so in the incredibly convenient Korean culture. 

Birthday cakes are essentially available everywhere on the street, including Baskin-Robbins, Paris Baguette, and convenience stores. 

As a result, what typically occurs is that a few members of the group leave the celebration early to buy a birthday cake, return to the location just before the clock strikes midnight, and sing “Happy Birthday.”

Unspoken Customs

Unspoken customs in many cultures may dictate that guests divide the cost for the birthday individual. 

Clash of Cultures, however, shows up at a Korean birthday bash. Because it is typical for the party host and the birthday bearer to pay for everyone’s meal and beverages.  

However, cultures and customs are dynamic and ever-evolving. Today, it’s extremely unusual that you will argue verbally about who spends what when you attend a friend’s birthday celebration. 

Maybe showing respect for their customs and culture is one method to win their respect if you find yourself in a scenario where your Korean friends obstinately insist on covering everyone’s expenses.


Birthday Food in Korea

Along with adorable character-themed cakes, the traditional Korean meal “miyeok guk” , or seaweed soup, is widely linked to birthdays in Korea. 

Eating seaweed soup before examinations is frowned upon in Korean culture because it conjures up the unfavorable picture of pupils slipping and falling during the test. 

So why would Koreans eat food that is considered to be unlucky on such an important day? 

Seaweed rich in calcium, iodine and iron has historically been consumed by Korean mothers to maintain their health after giving birth. 

In keeping with this custom, seaweed soup has developed into a particular dish that people consume to remember their mothers’ suffering during childbirth and their affection for the kids. 

You might be shocked to learn how many Koreans continue to observe and maintain this unusual birthday ritual. 

It certainly sounds like an antiquated custom that does not appeal to the present young and technologically aware Korean population.

korean 70th birthday gift ideas

As their shape represents longevity and healthy lives, Koreans also think that eating noodles on special occasions such as birthdays and marriages brings good fortune. 

Similar to the Chinese, Koreans believe that eating rice cakes would increase your luck and fortune, especially if you distribute them with your loved ones.

Korea’s System of Age

The global age system and the Korean age concept are somewhat dissimilar. Why? This is so that Koreans can count the year spent in the womb. 

As a result, even though they are only a day old, a kid born on December 31st is regarded to be 2 years old on 1st January.

Celebration of Baek-(100-Day) il’s Korean Birthday

100 days after the child’s birth, a celebration honoring Baek-il is conducted. The number 100 has significant meaning in Korean culture. 

A little celebration, rice cakes, plus miyeok-guk are given to a youngster who has reached 100 days of age. 

Furthermore, it is believed that if 100 rice cakes are shared, your kid will live a long life; for this reason, many families share these desserts with everyone.

Celebration of Doljanchi’s (1st) Korean Birthday

The child turns one on their doljanchi, however in Korea they are regarded as being two. 

In addition, instead of the New Year, this celebration is held on the day of their birth. The young celebrant dons a hanbok, a traditional outfit, as well as a unique cap. Babies participate in the doljabi in addition to eating foods like boiled rice, seaweed soup, and rice cakes. 

For Koreans, a child’s first birthday is a significant day because the parents hold a particular ritual or game to forecast the kid’s future in addition to the fact that it marks the child turning one year old. For the festivities, kids are also decked out in traditional Korean attires.

korean first birthday grab items meaning

The youngster must select a single food item or item from a table that includes goods like a book, a calligraphy brush, a thread of thread, a banknote, and so on as part of the rite known as doljabi. 

There are specific connotations associated with each object. For instance, if a youngster chooses money, they will be wealthy and successful. 

A baby will live a full life if they choose a spool of threads, and they will be exceedingly educated if they choose a brush or a book. 

As some families place microphones (for singers, for example), stethoscopes (for doctors), or soccer balls (for athletes in general), the items vary from household to household and have altered over time to represent modern culture.

Celebration of Hwangap’s (60th) Birthday in Korea

Living to 60 years of age (61 in Korea) was a significant accomplishment before the advent of modern medicine. 

Although many Koreans survive past the age of 60, this birthday is still one to be honoured. The birthday boy or girl generally travels or celebrates with family during the hwangap. This celebration also occurs on the person’s real birthday, just as the doljanchi. 

Even though Koreans still celebrate turning 60, life expectancy has grown as well. Therefore, it has become customary to host a larger party in lieu of turning 70 or 80. These events are referred to as chilsoon janchi and palsoon janchi, respectively.

Birthday Gifts

For Newborns

Koreans don’t precisely feel the same way as someone from a western society may, who could view clothing or baby toys as the ideal birthday gift. 

Giving the child material items on their birthday is not forbidden, but it is riskier. Cash is a very popular and a great gift on birthdays, and a safe range is between W30,000 and W50,000. 

The parents invest a lot of money for the first birthday, so money is nice because it’s a lovely gesture. If the child is under 100 days old, consider a chopstick or utensil set, which is a highly culturally acceptable present. 

Money is still acceptable, though.

baek il traditions

For Adults

Koreans frequently travel abroad to celebrate major anniversaries or hold opulent parties at home. 

Compared to gift-giving guidelines for weddings and other occasions, this one is really more lenient. 

Money is unquestionably the best gift to give to keep yourself secure, but again, it all relies on your standing or relationship with the recipient. 

Alcohol, especially fine wines, soju, and other Korean specialties, are appropriate for this occasion due to South Korea’s drinking culture. You might even think about presenting food-filled gift baskets.

What Not To Gift On Birthdays in Korea

Like many other cultures around the world, Korean culture has superstitions. A few of those superstitions affect the kinds of gifts to stay away from.

First off, it’s probably not wise to give pricey gifts to Koreans because they will constantly feel obligated to return the favor. 

The next step is to steer clear of anything sharp, like a knife or pair of scissors, as this represents breaking off a connection with someone. 

Another item to stay away from are gifts with red writing since the color red and things that come in fours are associated with death.

Summary on Birthday Celebrations in Korea

Korean birthdays, like birthdays in any other culture, are a cause of celebration.

The most important part of Korean birthday celebration is probably that all Korean citizens get one year older on New Year’s Eve. So your date of birth might help you get that birthday cake, but it won’t make you older!

So what’s your favorite part of the birthday celebrations in Korea. 

Also Read:

Best Korean Gifts And Souvenirs

Parents Day In Korea

List Of Korean Traditions and Festivals

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