Monday, July 18, 2022

S's 100-Day Celebration: A Korean Tradition

I can't believe our baby is already 100 days old! 100 days is traditionally an important milestone in Korean culture, a holdover from previous times when many children did not live to that age. Although I clearly have not been following this rule, the 100-day mark is also typically the time after which the Korean mom and new baby can start going out in the world (as it's believed going out too much before then hampers recovery and puts mother and child at risk). These days, many people don't celebrate a child's 100 days and prefer instead to go all-out for the child's first birthday (another big one in Korea called the dol janchi, 돌잔치).

But we decided to go ahead and do a 100-day party (baekil janchi, 백일 잔치) for S for a few reasons. First of all, it was so easy to throw something traditionally Korean together while we're in South Korea: we were even able to rent a whole baekil janchi party set for the weekend! Second, we knew we only had a couple of months left to spend with my Korean family before we leave for the United States, so we wanted to make some nice memories together while we're still here. Third, I talked to one of my Korean American friends back home who had done an adorable baekil janchi for her son. When I mentioned I was on the fence about whether to organize something, she mentioned any excuse to get a baby in a hanbok (한복, traditional Korean dress) is a good one. Once I pictured S in a baby hanbok, it was a done deal and I knew I had to do the party.

We were so busy in the days leading up to the party cleaning the house top to bottom, picking up the party rental set, preparing food, and ordering rice cakes. Part of the 100-day tradition is to give special baekil rice cakes to 100 people to bring good fortune and long life to your baby. Between the guests at our party and my coworkers at the embassy, we got our rice cake recipients covered (with the help of some awesome colleagues who helped me get the rice cakes to folks in the office while I'm still on maternity leave).

The rice cake gift sets were so cute, and the big square one was even filled with delicious chocolate - something I've never seen in a rice cake like that before. (If you're curious, the Chinese character on that rice cake means 100, or baek in Korean. Chinese characters are called hanja, 한자, in the Korean language. A lot of Korean words are based on such Chinese characters.)

Joining us and my Korean family were our friends and neighbors (the other N&M), who had just come off of two weeks of hosting their family members visiting Korea from the United States. I was impressed they had the energy after so much running around with their guests, but I'm so glad they were able to attend and be a part of spoiling little S (and making sure we got our money's worth on the party set). My friend N made a gorgeous Almond Joy cake for the event that was as tasty as it was beautiful (and that you can see on the right in the photos of the whole spread).

Everyone brought such nice gifts, too, from the traditional gold rings to the most delightfully arranged flower basket I think I've ever seen to a norigae (노리개), an ornamental accessory either worn on a woman's or child's hanbok or hung in a room for good luck. Some of my colleagues at the embassy even sent a cute Korean baby book and a card to mark the occasion. We were so happy to have an excuse to shower love over little S, and can't wait to celebrate his first birthday with the rest of our family next year once we're back home!

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