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What are big birthdays in Korean culture?


Korean culture places great importance on the celebration of significant milestones, particularly when it comes to birthdays. Birthdays in Korea are viewed as a time for reflection, gratitude, and celebration. However, not all birthdays are created equal; some are considered more significant than others. This article will delve into the big birthdays in Korean culture and the traditions associated with them.

First Birthday (Doljanchi)

The first birthday, known as doljanchi, is one of the most significant birthdays in Korean culture. It is a celebration of a child’s survival during the first year of life. The event is typically held at a banquet hall or home and involves family and close friends. The centerpiece of the celebration is the doljabi, where objects representing different professions are placed in front of the child, who then chooses one. This tradition is believed to predict the child’s future career.

Sixtieth Birthday (Hwangap)

The sixtieth birthday, known as hwangap, is another major milestone in Korean culture. It marks the completion of a full circle of life in traditional Korean culture. The celebration is typically held at home or a banquet hall and involves family and friends. The person being celebrated is honored with gifts, food, and drink. It is also customary to perform a bowing ceremony to show respect for the person’s longevity.

70th Birthday (Chilsoon)

The 70th birthday, known as chilsoon, is another important milestone in Korean culture. It is celebrated similarly to the sixtieth birthday but with an added emphasis on longevity and wisdom. The person being celebrated is honored with traditional Korean dishes that symbolize health and longevity. It is also customary to perform a tribute ceremony called beolsikmyo.

80th Birthday (Pallyeoh)

The 80th birthday, known as pallyeoh, is one of the most significant birthdays in Korean culture. It is celebrated as a tribute to the person’s long life and wisdom. The celebration typically involves family and close friends, who bring gifts and honor the person being celebrated. A special meal is prepared with symbolic dishes to represent longevity.

Other Significant Birthdays

Aside from the big birthdays mentioned above, there are other significant birthdays in Korean culture. The twentieth and thirtieth birthdays are considered important because they mark the transition into adulthood. The fiftieth birthday is also significant and marks the beginning of old age.

Traditional Korean Birthday Foods

Food plays a vital role in Korean birthday celebrations. Some traditional Korean birthday foods include miyeokguk (seaweed soup), which is typically served on a child’s first birthday and symbolizes good luck and longevity. Another popular dish is baekseju (Korean rice wine), which is served during hwangap celebrations to symbolize happiness and prosperity.

Birthday Gift Giving

Gift-giving is an essential part of Korean birthday celebrations. Traditional gifts include money, fruit baskets, and hanbok (traditional Korean clothing). In modern times, gifts like jewelry, electronics, and luxury goods have become more common.

Birthday Traditions

Korean birthday celebrations involve several traditional customs. One such custom involves eating a bowl of miyeokguk for each year of the person’s life on their birthday. Another custom is the doljabi, where objects representing different professions are placed in front of a child, who then chooses one to predict their future career.

Birthday Celebration Locations

Korean birthday celebrations can take place in various locations, including banquet halls, restaurants, and homes. Banquet halls are often used for larger celebrations, while restaurants and homes are used for smaller, more intimate gatherings.

Modern Trends in Korean Birthday Celebrations

In modern times, Korean birthday celebrations have become more diverse and less strictly traditional. Many people now celebrate their birthdays with trips, parties, or other non-traditional activities. However, traditional customs and food remain an integral part of Korean birthday celebrations.


In conclusion, Korean culture places great importance on the celebration of significant milestones, particularly when it comes to birthdays. From doljanchi to pallyeoh, each big birthday is celebrated with unique traditions and customs. While some traditions have evolved over time, food and gift-giving remain an essential part of Korean birthday celebrations.

Are birthdays a big deal in Korea?

The special age that South Koreans reach is significant in their culture because age holds great importance. It impacts how you address others, how you share meals, and even the nature of your relationships with others.

What is milestone birthday in Korea?

A significant event in Korean culture is the first birthday of a child, which is celebrated by dressing up in traditional clothing called hanbok and taking formal family photos. The main event of the celebration is a traditional fortune-telling ceremony called Doljabi.

Why is 60 a big birthday in Korea?

It is technically the 60th birthday, but in Korean age, the person would be celebrating their 61st. The number 60 means accomplishing one big 60-year cycle and starting another one in one’s life following the traditional 60-year calendar cycle of the lunar calendar.

Do birthdays matter in Korea?

In Korea, there are two distinct celebrations for what is traditionally known as a birthday in the Western world: the actual date of birth and the New Year’s celebration, where everyone becomes a year older. Interestingly, age and birthdays are not directly connected in Korean culture.

Why do some Koreans have 2 birthdays?

Korea has a distinct way of calculating age, where a baby is considered one year old at birth. Additionally, every individual in Korea ages one year on January 1st, regardless of their actual birth date. Therefore, if a baby is born on December 31st, they will become two years old on January 1st the following day.

What do Koreans gift on birthdays?

In modern-day Korea, it’s common for people to skip buying birthday presents for one another and instead opt for a meal or drinks together. Some families and friends still make an effort to provide a birthday cake for the celebrant.

In addition to the traditional customs and practices, there are also modern trends in Korean birthday celebrations. Many young Koreans are now adopting Western-style birthday celebrations, such as blowing out candles on a cake and receiving gifts wrapped in colorful paper. However, for older Koreans and those who value tradition, the emphasis is still placed on respect for elders and honoring the significance of each milestone.

Another important aspect of Korean birthday celebrations is the use of social media. Many people now take to social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to share messages and photos with their friends and family. This allows people who may not be able to attend the celebration in person to still feel connected and included in the festivities.

Lastly, Korean birthday celebrations have become more inclusive in recent years. Traditionally, only certain birthdays were celebrated with grand ceremonies, but now people are celebrating each year of their life as a milestone worth commemorating. This trend has been embraced by many Koreans as a way to appreciate the journey of life and all its ups and downs.

In conclusion, Korean birthday celebrations are steeped in tradition and culture, but they have also evolved to include modern trends and practices. Whether it’s a child’s first birthday or an elder’s pallyeoh celebration, each milestone is celebrated with respect, gratitude, and joy. From traditional foods like miyeokguk to modern gift-giving practices, Korean birthdays are a time for reflection, appreciation, and most importantly, celebration.

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