Family Life, Party Ideas, Photography

Dohljanchi: Evie’s First Birthday Party

The Day of the Party

Birthdays are always an important day in families but for me, my babies’ first birthdays are extra special because of my Korean tradition. A Korean baby’s first birthday is a big deal and the celebration is called a dohl, a special party celebrating a big milestone. Click here to read more about Dohls and how I prepare for them. 

We had to postpone the date of the party a few times, but we finally got (almost- we were missing Uncle John) everyone together to celebrate Evie’s dohl before the end of the month. It meant so much to me that everyone made sacrifices (ie. lack of sleep from working a night shift and driving straight there from a weekend retreat camp) to make this celebration happen despite the scheduling conflicts.

Our apartment is barely big enough for us, so we planned to bring everyone together at my parents’ house. I’m pretty sure our neighbors thought we were moving out when they saw us hauling tote after tote spilling over with supplies and decorations, our travel booster seat, in addition to the diaper bag overstuffed with everything we’d need to have the kids ready to ensure the “carseat-to-bed transfer” to go as smoothly as possible when we got back home late that night.

I laugh in hindsight, but in the moment I confess I was a quite stressed about arriving ahead of time in order to prepare for the party. No matter how prepared I think I am, getting out the door on time with three kids and their multiple needs, is always a particular challenge.

Setting up the dohljanchi table with some handmade decorations- my favorite are those letters that turned out better than I had hoped!

Arrival and Set up

When we arrived about an hour later, Evie clung to me like a monkey, so instead of getting to work setting up decorations right away, I took time to catch up with my mom and sister. Once she was comfortable enough to get down and join her brother and sister’s play, I got to work lovingly setting up the various decor I had made and brought from home. I plan on posting my event-planning adventure for this dohl in another post, so stay tuned.

Once the decorations and the dohljanchi table were set up, and everyone had arrived, we had dinner which my mom so deliciously prepared. Her Korean food, in my opinion, is the best out there, hands down.

Dohljalbi & Cake

Due to the excitement of the day Evie hadn’t taken a proper nap and she was overtired by the time we finished dinner. We quickly got her changed into the hanbok (a traditional Korean dress) which we borrowed from her big cousin, and played the dohljabi. For those who are unfamiliar with this tradition, the ritual of the doljabi is the highlight of a Korean first birthday party. The baby is placed in front of various items and encouraged to choose one. It is thought that the item the baby chooses predicts his or her future profession. Evie chose the stethoscope and then on round two, went for the microphone. My sister who’s a nurse and Evie’s godmother, was pretty thrilled with Evie’s choice!

After some pictures, we were all happy to dig in to not only one, but two, birthday cakes. My sister-in-law brought the first one from a local Korean bakery chain here in Southern California; their cakes are amazing to look at, and of course, scrumptious. The second cake was a traditional dohl tteok (rice cake) cake which my parents ordered for this occasion. I think watching Evie enjoy her portion of cake, which mysteriously kept replenishing itself, was almost as good as actually enjoying a piece, which I most definitely did.

It was such a beautiful day celebrating Evie.

It was a simple, intimate celebration but it was perfect for Evie. She was free to run around with the siblings and cousins, and we all felt relaxed and comfortable at my parents’. It’s always a good time when we’re all together and I feel so blessed whenever we get the chance to do so. I feel this so keenly as someone who had moved away to Prince Edward Island before my wedding and started my family there, so far away from my parents and siblings, who missed many of our family celebrations. Now that we’re back, I don’t these occasions for granted.


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