Last Saturday, September 1st, my family celebrated nephew's first birthday. My sister-in-law (SIL) is Korean, so we had a traditional Korean first birthday celebration, called a Tol. SIL's family came and loaded their home with Korean pears, apples, strawberries, pineapple, rice cake, small rice cake dumplings, and lots of sweets.
They dressed my nephew in the birthday clothes: pink jogori (jacket) with puple paji (pants), striped durumagi (long jacket), a blue vest printed with a gold pattern, a jonbok (long blue vest) with a gold pattern, and a hongsadae (traditional belt) over it. On his head he wore a bokgun (black hat with a long tail), on his toes he wore tarae-busun (traditional socks), and hanging off his belt was a yumnang (traditional round shaped pouch). He looked ridiculously cute.
So he stood (with aid from my brother and SIL) in front of the table and he had to choose one of the items placed in front of him, the choice of which would presage what he will one day become. According to Lifeinkorea.com, he was supposed to choose from
-bow and arrow: the child will become a warrior
-needle and thread: the child will live long
-jujube: the child will have many descendants
-book, pencil, or related items: the child will become a successful scholar
-rice or rice cake: the child will become rich (some resources say choosing a rice cake means the child is not smart)
-ruler, needle, scissors: the child will be talented with his/her
-knife: the child will be a good cook
My brother and SIL modified the list a bit (instead of a knife, they had a plastic fork, for example, and they had a $20 bill for prosperity). My nephew chose the fork, the pen, and then a book. His grandma (my SIL's mother) kept pushing the $20 bill at him, to encourage him to be prosperous. He picked up the sticky rice cakes and put them back 15 times before finally tasting one.
Then we all ate ridiculous amounts of food. And then we went to a Korean restaurant and ate even more food. I happen to love Korean food, but my father is perhaps the most unadventurous eater in the history of ever. Here's a man who, at fifty-eight, has never chewed gum or eaten an olive. On Saturday, he not only tried sushi for the first time, but also willingly ate bulgogi and fish cake. He was pleasantly surprised; needless to say, we kept the kimchi and other chili-spiced food away from him (he thinks white bread is spicey, I'm not sure if he would survive wasabi).
By the end of the day, we were stuffed and exhausted, but my nephew, as always with that bubbly, happy, delightful child, offered us all smiles and giggles.
Happy Birthday, Nephew!