Today we are going to talk about something that I thought was an absolute phenomenon in Korea. It made no since to me why Korea put such a high importance on Birthdays. But lets go through a little back story first.
All of Korea uses the Lunar calendar, not many changes other then New Years is on Feb. 24th - 26th (the third full moon from the solar new year Jan 1st.) The holiday is called Seolnal. I spoke with some Koreans telling me of an old tradition that Koreans don't actually "age" on their birthday, but instead everyone ages one year on Seonal. Something important to note that in Korea, when you are born, you are born as 1 year old, as opposed to America where you are 0.
Enough back story, now for mine. So in South Korea I found out that your first birthday is the most important, even though you can't remember it. I was invited to someones first b-day, along with I'd say 500 people. I never saw the parents who actually invited me as there were so many quest. And it's important for everyone to bring gifts. The child in question is usually dressed in these really fancy ceremonial type ropes. I was told this is very common and how all first b-days are held, I couldn't believe it, it is one of their biggest celebrations.
What about the rest of your birthdays? Good question. As a teacher I was able to take part in all of my students birthdays held by the school. And each and every time I was surprised by what I saw. It was pressured heavily on the family to throw a party at the school for their child. And so what would happen is the parents would bring in literally mounds and mounds of food. Far more then a class of twelve six year olds could ever eat. Some would bring in a Mountain bouquet of Fruit that almost reached the ceiling, some parents bought 3 tier cakes you'd see at a wedding. After my students parents learned I liked fried chicken, they would bring me baskets of it (no complaints). But why do they go through all of this food when it can't be eating. It's easy, to show off. Koreans lives revolve around money, they love the stuff, and the more money you have the better off you are in life. So parents in order to look as if they were well off and successful, would shower food and gifts at their child's b-day party. They are actually so worried of looking poor in front of others they will spend their money simply to say, no I'm not.
It's sad but true, I've learned that Koreans are always worried about what others will think of them, almost like American Christians. They judge everyone but hate to be judged, and will say its bad to judge others.