As Sophia and I were going over the day's shows this morning, a woman I didn't recognize approached and laid two brightly-wrapped, rectangular boxes on our desk. She said something to Sophia in Korean, Sophia smiled and replied, then the woman continued to pass out more boxes around the office. My typical modus operandi when someone hands me a gift and/or money is to take it, no questions asked, but as with most things in Korea, I figured there was probably an interesting story behind this apple-green box on my desk. Sophia explained that the woman (who, apparently, I should have recognized) was distributing gifts of tteok (Korean rice cakes) in celebration of the 100th day of her son's life.
The son was nowhere to be found, but as I glanced down the length of our office, I spotted at least ten people either pulling apart pieces of sticky tteok or shoving it in by the mouthful. We're talking a lot of brightly-colored boxes, all in honor of someone who can't even roll over on his own. Now, for me to criticize this ritual would be somewhat akin to the pot calling the kettle black. Once I was old enough to realize that my birthday was, in fact, a day to honor me, I quickly moved the party venue from the dining room table of my home to a more spacious location where I could sit atop a pool table to open my presents while all my adoring fans watched from a decidedly lower level. (All of a sudden it's becoming clear to me why the audience for my birthday parties slowly dwindled over the years.) Later in the day I was researching for a show when I realized maybe I shouldn't feel so bad about demanding such undivided attention on my special day. I found the picture below on www.korea.net with the caption: The lucky baby boy delights in his first birthday party, known as "Dol" in Korea, at the Seoul Plaza Hotel, Sunday (Mar. 9).
During the Dol janchi ritual, the baby is urged to pick up one of the items on the table. Whichever item he or she chooses supposedly determines his or her fate. I'm still battling my decision to dive into my first year birthday cake with reckless abandon. I'm forever doomed to a propensity for overeating and utter disregard for the remains of my last meal on my cheek (the latter, however, is at least in part genetic--thanks, Grampa John).