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What do Koreans do to celebrate birthdays?


Korean culture is rich in traditions and customs, including how they celebrate birthdays. Birthdays are special occasions that mark another year of life and give an opportunity to show appreciation for loved ones. In Korea, birthdays are celebrated in unique ways that showcase the country’s culture and values.

History of Birthday Celebrations in Korea

Before Western influence, Koreans did not celebrate birthdays in the modern sense. Instead, they marked the 100th day after a baby’s birth as a significant milestone. This tradition was based on the belief that a baby was more likely to survive after this period. However, with the advent of Western culture, Koreans began to adopt the practice of celebrating birthdays.

Preparations for Korean Birthday Celebrations

The preparations for Korean birthday celebrations often begin weeks or even months in advance. Family members or friends may start planning a surprise party, shopping for gifts or preparing food. It is customary to decorate the house with balloons, streamers and banners to create a festive atmosphere. Some may also hire a professional photographer or videographer to capture the memories.

Traditional Korean Birthday Foods

Food plays an essential role in Korean birthday celebrations. One of the most popular traditional dishes is seaweed soup (miyeokguk), which is said to provide strength and vitality. Another staple is rice cake (tteok), which symbolizes longevity and prosperity. The cake is often decorated with fruit and candles to signify each year of age.

Birthday Traditions for Children

In Korea, children’s birthdays are celebrated with extra enthusiasm. Parents often throw parties with games, singing and dancing. The birthday child wears traditional Korean clothing (hanbok) and receives money as gifts from guests. They may also participate in a traditional ceremony called doljabi, where objects like money, a pencil or a microphone are placed in front of the child to choose from, which is believed to predict their future.

Birthday Traditions for Adults

For adults, birthday celebrations are usually quieter affairs that involve close family and friends. It is customary to exchange gifts, share a meal and offer words of encouragement. Drinking together is also a common way to celebrate, as it symbolizes bonding and camaraderie.

Korean Birthday Superstitions

Koreans believe in many superstitions related to birthdays. For example, it is considered bad luck to celebrate a birthday before the actual day, as it may bring misfortune. Koreans also avoid giving gifts in sets of four, as the number is associated with death. Instead, odd-numbered gifts are preferred.

Birthday Gifts in Korea

Gift-giving is an integral part of Korean birthday celebrations. When selecting a gift, Koreans often consider the recipient’s age and gender as well as their relationship to them. Popular gifts include cosmetics, accessories, electronics and books. Money is also a common gift, especially for children.

Birthday Celebrations in Korean Schools

In Korean schools, birthdays are celebrated with classmates and teachers. Students often bring treats like cupcakes or candy to share with their classmates. The birthday child may also receive special treatment such as being allowed to wear casual clothes instead of a school uniform.

Korean Birthday Etiquette

Koreans place great importance on etiquette during birthday celebrations. Guests should arrive on time and bring a gift or food to share. It is customary to bow when giving or receiving gifts and to use two hands when presenting them. The birthday person should also express gratitude for the celebration and thank their guests individually.

Modern Trends in Korean Birthday Celebrations

With the rise of social media, modern Koreans are finding new ways to celebrate birthdays. Some opt for virtual parties, where guests join via video conferencing platforms. Others use digital invitation tools to create personalized invites. Additionally, more Koreans are embracing Western-style birthday cakes and decorations.


Korean birthday celebrations are steeped in tradition and customs that reflect the country’s values and beliefs. From seaweed soup to doljabi ceremonies, each aspect of a Korean birthday celebration has special meaning and significance. By understanding these traditions, we can gain a deeper appreciation of Korean culture and the importance of celebrating life’s milestones.

Do Koreans celebrate their actual birthday?

In Korea, people continue to celebrate their birthdays on the day they were born and count their age from that day. However, their “Korean age” changes on January 1st every year regardless of their actual birthday. So, if someone was born on April 1st, they would still celebrate their birthday on the same day each year, but their Korean age would increase on January 1st.

What is the South Korean birthday ceremony?

Dol or doljanchi is a Korean custom that marks the first birthday of a newborn and is meant to bring blessings of prosperity for the child’s future. This ceremony holds special importance in Korean culture.

What do Koreans make for birthdays?

In Korea, there is a traditional birthday dish called Miyeok-Guk, also known as Seaweed Soup, which is eaten every year.

Why is 61st birthday important in Korea?

When celebrating a 60th birthday in Korea, the person is actually considered to be 61 according to their traditional lunar calendar. In this culture, turning 60 means completing one full cycle of 60 years and beginning another cycle.

Are birthdays a big deal in Korea?

Special birthdays are significant in South Korean culture because age holds high value in their society. Age affects speech, shared meals, and even friendships.

Are birthdays a big thing in Korea?

Korean culture places great importance on Dol, which are celebrations held to mark significant milestones in a person’s life. These celebrations are unique and occur when an individual reaches a particular age. The term Dol refers to the passing of 365 days since a baby’s birth.

Apart from traditional Korean birthday celebrations, there are also modern ways to celebrate birthdays in Korea. For example, some Koreans choose to have a small gathering with their closest friends or family members at a fancy restaurant or café. Others may opt for a more adventurous birthday experience, such as going on a trip or trying an extreme sport.

Another popular trend in Korean birthday celebrations is the use of social media to show appreciation for loved ones. Many Koreans post heartfelt messages and photos on their social media accounts to wish their friends and family members a happy birthday. This has become a popular way to publicly express gratitude and love towards those who are important in one’s life.

In summary, Korean birthday celebrations are a significant aspect of the country’s culture and traditions. From the preparation of traditional foods to the exchange of gifts and heartfelt messages, every aspect of a Korean birthday celebration has special meaning and significance. As Korea continues to evolve and embrace modern trends, it is likely that new and innovative ways of celebrating birthdays will emerge, but the essence of these celebrations will always remain rooted in the country’s rich cultural heritage.

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