Why do Koreans Value Doljabi Items?
To first understand why Koreans value Doljabi items, one must understand the value of the tradition behind Doljabi, Doljanchi.
Doljanchi is a Korean tradition that celebrates a Korean baby’s first birthday. Traditionally, Koreans celebrated a baby’s first birthday because it was not uncommon for a baby to cease before they could turn 1 year old.
Therefore, Koreans celebrated the survival of a baby and threw a First Korean Birthday Party commonly known as a Dol Party to cheer with family members and bestow further good luck on the baby by eating certain foods and holding the tradition of Doljabi.
What is Doljabi?
Doljabi is a tradition where a baby is placed in front of multiple Doljabi Items to choose 2 out of 6 to 8 items. Each item held their own unique representation and meaning for the baby.
Koreans valued good luck and believed that eating certain foods could grant good luck, certain charms would keep evil spirits out, and preferring specific items would destine that person into a specific lifestyle. Doljabi was a tradition believed by Koreans to reveal the destiny of the baby.
The common traditional Doljabi Sets used contained these specific Doljabi items: yarn which represented long life, a medallion which represented high status as a government official, a bow which represented a warrior spirit, a fortune pouch which represented lasting good luck, a set of coins which represented a savvy investor, a rice ball which represented wealth, and a brush which represented knowledge and wisdom.
Because of the new wave of career options and values, modern Koreans have opted to use modern Doljabi items which can be anything from an airplane to represent a future pilot to a cellphone to represent a technology engineer.
Why do Koreans cherish Doljabi and the items used?
As fervent religious and spiritual individuals show an unwavering belief in their deity and/or values, so too did Koreans believe in the concept of good/evil spirits, good luck, and fortune telling. This stems from the widespread and rooted belief in Korean Shamanism throughout Korea which dates back to pre-literary history and still prevails to this day. Even Korean Churches have adopted a few Shamanistic rituals!
This prevalence in Korean superstition absolutely had a strong influence on the tradition of Doljabi and Doljabi items. This is one reason why the same Doljabi items were used throughout the countries - everyone in Korea held the same rooted beliefs of the representation of each traditional Doljabi item and used them in hopes that their baby would flourish.
Furthermore, blessing a baby during the past was prioritized by many. Famine, cruel winters, and a lack of resources was common so the survival of a baby up to 1 hinged on good luck and a strong will to live. And just because a baby made it to 1 didn’t ensure survival. Everything in a Dol Party including the Doljabi items centered on blessing the baby with good fortune and longevity.
Family members would start the celebration by praying to the goddesses for the baby’s health, Doljabi was held to further bless the baby for prosperity, long health, or a fruitful life and career, and specific foods such as noodles, rice cakes, and millet balls coated with red beans were provided after Doljabi. The long thread of noodles symbolized longevity, the white color of rice cakes symbolized a baby’s innocence and spiritual purity, and millet balls with red bean powder was traditionally believed to cast off evil spirits and misfortune. Everything about Doljabi was centered on Korean superstition and because Koreans held strong beliefs in their superstitions, Doljabi was extremely valued by them.
Koreans tend to value family extensively. Therefore, Doljabi and Doljanchi is seen as one of the most important family traditions because it is believed to grant good fortune, health, and happiness to the newest family member.