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Why are Korean birthdays different?


Korean culture is known for its unique traditions and practices, including the way they celebrate birthdays. Unlike the Western culture, where birthday celebrations are marked by cake cutting, blowing candles and receiving gifts, Korean birthday celebrations differ in many ways. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind the difference in Korean birthdays and how they celebrate their special day.

History of Korean Birthday Celebrations

The history of Korean birthday celebrations dates back to ancient times when people believed that the first birthday was a significant milestone as it symbolized the survival of a child through infancy. Thus, they would celebrate it grandly by inviting family and friends to offer blessings and gifts to the child. Over time, this tradition evolved, and today it has become an integral part of Korean culture.

The Concept of Birth Year in Korea

In Korea, age is calculated differently from the Western culture. Instead of starting from one at birth, Koreans consider themselves one-year-old at birth, and every New Year’s Day adds one more year to their age. This means that even if a baby is born on December 31st, they will be considered two years old on January 1st of the following year.

Importance of 60th Birthday in Korea

In Korean culture, reaching 60 years old is considered a significant milestone as it marks the completion of one full cycle in the traditional Chinese zodiac calendar. This birthday is celebrated grandly with family and friends, as it is believed that reaching 60 years old brings good luck and longevity.

The Celebration of Doljanchi

Doljanchi is a traditional Korean celebration of a child’s first birthday. It is celebrated grandly with family and friends, where they dress up their child in traditional attire called Hanbok and offer them various symbolic items such as rice, thread, and money. The items the child chooses are believed to predict their future.

Korean Birthday Food

Food is an essential part of any celebration in Korea, and birthdays are no different. Korean birthday celebrations are marked with traditional dishes such as seaweed soup, rice cakes, and noodles, which are believed to bring good luck and longevity.

The Role of Ancestral Worship in Korean Birthdays

In Korean culture, ancestral worship is prevalent, and it plays a significant role in birthday celebrations. It is believed that ancestors watch over their descendants and bless them with good fortune. Thus, Koreans offer food and drinks to their ancestors during birthday celebrations to seek their blessings.

Gift-giving in Korean Birthdays

Gift-giving is an essential aspect of Korean culture, and it is no different in birthday celebrations. However, instead of receiving gifts, Koreans traditionally give money as a gift, wrapped in colorful envelopes called “saenae-tongdong.”

The Significance of Colors in Korean Birthdays

Colors hold great significance in Korean culture, and they play an important role in birthday celebrations. For instance, pink is a popular color for baby girls’ first birthday celebrations, while blue is preferred for baby boys. Red is considered a lucky color and is used for 60th birthday celebrations.

Avoidance of Celebrating Before the Actual Birthday

Unlike the Western culture, where people often celebrate their birthdays before the actual date, Koreans avoid celebrating before their actual birthday. This is because they believe that it could bring bad luck and misfortune.

The Role of Age in Korean Culture

In Korea, age plays a vital role in social interactions and relationships. It determines the level of respect one receives from others and the way they address them. Thus, birthdays hold great significance as they mark the passing of another year and the addition of another digit to their age.


In conclusion, Korean birthday celebrations differ from the Western culture due to their unique traditions and practices. They place great importance on ancestral worship, gift-giving, and traditional food, while also avoiding celebrating before the actual date. Understanding the significance of Korean birthday celebrations can help us appreciate and respect their culture better.

Do Koreans celebrate birthdays differently?

At first it may seem confusing, but in Korea, people still celebrate their birthdays with cake and candles on the actual day, just like we do. However, on New Year’s, everyone celebrates by eating a soup that represents aging. This means that your age in Korea is actually higher than your age in the United States.

Why do Koreans have multiple birthdays?

In Korean culture, babies are considered to be one year old when they are born, factoring in the time spent in the womb. However, they celebrate their second birthday on the upcoming New Year’s Day, meaning that babies born on December 31st are considered two years old on January 1st despite being only one day old in other parts of the world.

Why does Korea add 2 years to age?

Koreans use a unique age calculation system where a newborn baby is already considered one year old. Each year on January 1st, everyone in Korea celebrates their birthday and becomes one year older. This means that a baby born on December 31st would become two years old the following day on January 1st.

What is the birthday rule in Korea?

In Korean culture, a person is considered one year old on the day they are born because the time spent in the womb is counted as the first year of life. As a result, a person’s Korean age is always at least one year higher than their age according to Western culture.

Why is 61st birthday important in Korea?

In Korean culture, when someone turns 60 years old, they are actually considered to be 61 years old. This is because reaching 60 is seen as completing one cycle of the traditional 60-year lunar calendar and beginning a new one.

Is 18 a minor in Korea?

A child is someone who has not yet reached the age of 18.

Modern Korean Birthday Celebrations

While traditional Korean birthday celebrations still hold a special place in the hearts of many Koreans, modern celebrations have also become popular. Many Koreans now celebrate their birthdays by going out to eat, watching movies, or taking part in other fun activities with friends and family.

Another popular trend in modern Korean birthday celebrations is the use of social media. Many Koreans take to platforms like Instagram or Facebook to share birthday wishes and photos with their friends and followers. It is not uncommon for people to receive hundreds or even thousands of birthday messages on their special day.


Korean birthday celebrations are a unique and important part of the country’s culture. From the first birthday celebration of Doljanchi, to the significant milestone of the 60th birthday, Koreans have many traditions and practices that make their birthdays stand out from those in Western cultures. By understanding these traditions, we can gain a greater appreciation for Korean culture and the importance they place on family, tradition, and respect for elders.

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