The centuries old traditional Korean Tol celebration is alive and well. This first birthday of a Korean child is still celebrated as a time of congratulations for their parents and family. In Korean culture this milestone event is marked with the making and wearing of the Hanbok, the traditional dress worn during festivals and celebrations, and tables set with dozens of varying symbolic items.
Each food prepared has a specific meaning. Steamed rice cakes represent a pure spirit, sticky rice cakes are a wish that the child grow to be tenacious and strong, noodles represent a long life. Along with food, other items are placed on the table and are necessary to complete the Toljabee event. The child is guided around the table, generally by their father, and the items that attract them are said to be a prediction of their future. Here are some examples as to the types of objects that can be presented to the little one and what choosing them can mean.
The birthday child is placed at the table so that the other guests can face them in yet another sign that they are the center of attention on their special day.
In the modern Tol, taking a picture of the child is an important part of the event. The photo is generally taken with the child seated and a Korean traditional screen used as the background. These photos can be taken in advance and used as the focus of your Tol invitation.
Steeped in custom and tradition, this birthday celebration continues to say “Saengil chukha hamnida”. Happy Birthday.