Though I’ve heard it’s becoming less common, Koreans traditionally celebrated their baby’s 백일, the hundredth day after birth.
There are a couple of reasons behind this tradition, but the one which I found most charming is because the hundredth day is about one year after conception. In Korea, you are a member of the family from the time you are conceived, and so your hundredth day is your first birthday. (This is probably at least part of the reason why they count their birthdays differently to how we do in Australia)
Alice started life in Korea, but was born in Australia and will most likely be raised here for most of her childhood, I want to do as much as I can to help her experience and know both her cultures and so, despite knowing very little about what goes on at a 백일, I set out to prepare one for her.
My mother inlaw told me that these days Koreans usually just set up a pretty table with fruit and rice cake and take some photos, I wanted to have some friends around and a small event.
Han read about various traditions and ideas online. Apparently, once upon a time, Han’s sister would have secretly cut Alice’s hair and then presented the cut hair to me to bring good luck. Since I hate the thought of cutting her hair, I suddenly felt quite relieved that Han has no siblings, however we did cut a few strands to save and give to her when she turns 21.
Usually parents give out a type of white rice cake called 백설기. They believe if they give it to at least 100 people, the baby will live a long life. In return, recipients would give skeins of silk thread, symbolising longevity; or rice, gold or money, symbolising wealth.
For the 백일상 (table) we planned to set three colours of fruit (we chose grapefruit, watermelon and pear) and 미역국 (seaweed soup, which is traditionally eaten post birth by the mother, and subsequently by the child on their birthdays), cooked rice, three types of 나물 (vegetable side dish) – 고사리 (bracken), 시금치 (spinach) and 콩나물 (bean sprout); and three types of rice cake, 백설기, 수수팥떡 and my personal favourite, 두텁떡. We also ordered a 백설기 cake (rice cake cake!) to share the centre stage with our baby.