In Korean, a baby’s first birthday is called Dol (pronounced dohl). Yesterday was Noah’s Dol. And having my mother here, I thought, was just perfect. But yesterday morning my mother brought out a “surprise birthday gift” for Noah, a Hanbok (pronounced hahn-bohk).
I started crying. Noah had no idea why I was crying, and he won’t know until he is older. My mother and I had already planned on making Korean food for his Dol, but I never expected to have Noah in a traditional Korean Hanbok. Ever.
I wore a Hanbok on my Dol, as did my younger brother. For me, growing up a Korean-American in New York City meant balancing at all times how Korean and/or American I was. For Noah, growing up a Korean-American-Belgian in Ghent, having these photos to look back on will help him better balance who he is.
In addition to wardrobe and food, there is also a fortune-telling game called the Doljabi (dohl-ja-bee). You put before the baby, four to five items to choose from. We had rice, money, a pencil and a spool of yarn. Whichever item the baby grabs first represents what is to come in their bright future.
Noah grabbed for the rice, spilling it over and onto the rug and making all of us laugh. In the Doljabi, rice represents a life where you will never go hungry. Money represent wealth, a pencil represent academic excellence, and yarn represents longevity. Noah’s choice of rice, although there was no right or wrong, made my heart swell. If I have anything to do with it, he will surely never go hungry.
At Noah’s Dol, were all his grandparents. Davy’s parents, long divorced, and their partners were here. My mother was here, which I consider a blessing. Missing, was my father. But Noah, born last year in the Year of the Dragon, shares the dragon sign with my father. And so we made sure to have a fierce dragon hanging in the room.
The Dol is over, although we have one more birthday party to throw on Sunday for friends and more family. I’m incredibly tired and emotional and overwhelmed with so many thoughts running through my mind and the rapid beating of my heart. But I feel so blessed for so many reasons and so proud to have given Noah his once-in-a-lifetime first birthday as a Korean dol.