Milestones: A Korean First Birthday

When you welcome a baby into your life, you can’t help but think a lot about his roots and his future.  One special tradition that Steve’s parents introduced us to was the Korean first birthday celebration – the Tol (also called Dol).

Even before our oldest son was born, his Harabuje and Halmoni (Korean grandfather and grandmother) were planning K’s Tol.  This is a special celebration that originated in a time when infant mortality was high, and a baby reaching his first birthday was an important milestone.

I didn’t know much about the Tol at first, but it became a sweet tradition that we continued for all three of our boys. With a few simple and meaningful elements, you can add this special event to your family’s memories, too!

Hanbok:

Steve happened to have gone on a business trip to Korea while I had been pregnant and he had brought home a traditional outfit (hanbok) for baby. Steve’s parents searched high and low and found the special socks and shoes to match. You can buy these in the US, too.  Here is a link to a baby boy Hanbok and a baby girl Hanbok.

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

Harabuje (grandpa) helps birthday boy L adjust his Hanbok.

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

Baby J wore a mix of his older brother’s outfits.

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

There are even special socks and shoes!

 

Tol table:

Harabuje and Halmoni hosted our first Tol in a private room at a Korean restaurant. It was a small event with family and a few close friends. The ritual of welcoming and honoring our young baby and his family seemed more important than putting on a display for others.

The main features at a Tol are the table set with an abundance of fruit and special rice cakes (called “duk”) and the Toljabee.

After the restaurant party for K, we hosted L and J’s Tol celebrations at home. While the restaurant had a set of fake fruits and accessories, I opted for something more simple, setting the table with red and blue decorations and fresh fruit and rice cakes. Simple, familiar flavors always go over really well with a crowd (especially if there are some picky eaters among you).

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

The Korean restaurant’s elaborate Tol table. Half those cakes and fruits are plastic – haha!

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

Our home Tol table was more modest – but everything was real!

 

Toljabee:

In the Toljabee, the baby is presented several items that each symbolize some characteristic, and the items that the baby chooses are a prediction about his future.

That’s a lot of pressure for a one-year-old! Luckily, the Toljabee is definitely rigged for success. Some examples of things a baby could choose are:

  • A book, showing he will be intelligent
  • A pen, showing he will be well-educated
  • A bundle of string, symbolizing long life
  • A Korean metal bowl of rice, meaning he will have enough to eat
  • Grapes, predicting many offspring
  • Money, representing wealth

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

L was kind of hungry, and kept trying to eat the grapes. I wonder if that really means I have a lot of grandchildren to loo forward to!

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

 

For our Toljabee at home, I assembled some symbolic items on a decorative tray. Embroidery floss or ribbon makes a pretty string!

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

 

Sharing the tradition:

All of our Tol celebrations were small. We kept to a small group of family and close friends. A big party can be overwhelming for a little baby, and there will be plenty of bigger parties to come. If you are having trouble tailoring a guest list, try writing everyone’s names down. This can help you to see who really needs to be there.

When L had his Tol, I mentioned it to his older brother’s preschool teachers, and they asked if I could teach his class of three-year-olds about this tradition. L became a living show-and-tell presentation, and we let each of the kids pick an item as part of the Toljabee.

I also made a picture book for the class to teach them about the Tol tradition. This was easy to do with a photo book and some simple text. Shutterfly has lots of options for customizing a book to make almost anything you can imagine. I made an extra copy for our family, which I put out during J’s Tol, and it was very cute to see L request a reading from every adult in the family.

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

I made a photo book to teach our kids and their friends about the tradition of the Tol.

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

The first page of our photo book about the Tol.

 

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

 

Looking back, we have a lot of special memories from these parties. Our kids tend to be more involved with their Chinese heritage, since they’re in a Chinese immersion school, and above all, their lives revolve around North American culture and interests, so I’m particularly glad to have included this Korean tradition in our family. While it was very important to Steve’s parents, it seems like a lot of other families didn’t know about the Tol, so it was also fun to share this tradition with our friends, and now, I’m excited to share it with you!

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

Do you have a baby with some Korean roots? This would be a beautiful event to hold for him or her. A lot of Korean restaurants are equipped to host a Tol, or it’s easy to do something simple at home. When I get a chance, I also want to tell you about our Chinese Red Egg and Ginger parties, and I’d love to hear about your traditional celebrations from other cultures, too!

“Jewels”

“Thankful Leaves” Fabric Garland for Thanksgiving

At Thanksgiving, I love the idea of creating a record of what we are thankful for, to help us reflect and to look back at over the years. I’ve seen this done on tablecloths or paper leaves hung on branches or strung in a garland. To make out garland more durable, I wanted to make it out of fabric.

A charming fall garland made of fabric leaves.  Over the years, each family member can record a Thanksgiving reflection on the back of a leaf to create a special tradition.  Jewels at Home.

Materials:

Instructions:

  • iron the Heat’n Bond to the felt or fabric and then iron on to the muslin or canvas, according to the instructions on the package. (left picture below)
  • make paper templates of a variety of leaf shapes. (right picture below)
  • trace the leaves with pencil onto the muslin and cut out.

Tutorial for Thanksgiving felt leaf garland, with muslin backing for writing what we are grateful for { from Jewels at Home}

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Let each family member choose a leaf and write their message with Sharpie or fabric markers on the muslin.

Tutorial for Thanksgiving felt leaf garland with muslin backing to write what we're thankful for.  {from Jewels at Home}

The boys writing on their “thankful leaves” to hang on the garland.

To hang the leaves, I used this sweet print that I bought on a birthday shopping spree. I didn’t even know what I would use it for when I bought it (don’t judge!), but it’s perfect for this project, with the orange-y red color and the tree silhouettes.

Charming print used for a Thanksgiving garland.  Jewels at Home.

For each garland, I cut two strips of 4.25″ wide fabric and joined it into a long strip. I folded and ironed it in half length-wise, with the right sides facing. I used pins to mark every five inches where I would leave an opening to insert a leaf, with room for 15 leaves on each garland.

I sewed around the edge of the fabric, leaving a gap at each pin a 10″ opening in the center.

I then turned the hanging strip right side out, and slipped in the leaves. I sewed in the ones we had already written on, and I pinned the rest with safety pins, so we can take them down to write on before sewing into the garland in years to come.

Here are the garlands in our dining room, getting us in the mood for fall ,though the weather is decidedly warm!  Together with the metallic painted pumpkins I created last year, the garlands are bringing the colors of the season into our home.

A charming fall garland made of fabric leaves.  Over the years, each family member can record a Thanksgiving reflection on the back of a leaf to create a special tradition.  Jewels at Home.

A charming fall garland made of fabric leaves.  Over the years, each family member can record a Thanksgiving reflection on the back of a leaf to create a special tradition.  Jewels at Home.

A charming fall garland made of fabric leaves.  Over the years, each family member can record a Thanksgiving reflection on the back of a leaf to create a special tradition.  Jewels at Home.

A charming fall garland made of fabric leaves.  Over the years, each family member can record a Thanksgiving reflection on the back of a leaf to create a special tradition.  Jewels at Home.

A charming fall garland made of fabric leaves.  Over the years, each family member can record a Thanksgiving reflection on the back of a leaf to create a special tradition.  Jewels at Home.

A charming fall garland made of fabric leaves.  Over the years, each family member can record a Thanksgiving reflection on the back of a leaf to create a special tradition.  Jewels at Home.

Wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you have as much to be thankful for as we do!

“Jewels”