The Chinese "100-Day" festival.

East Asian students share stories of 100-day celebrations, explain birthday-like tradition

Graphic by Chardonnay Needler
The Chinese “100-Day” festival.

Besides Indian culture, East Asian cultures host similarly extravagant celebrations for a child’s first year of life.

Ming Zhu Oct. 14

“(On) my 100th day of life, my mom took me to this photo shop. It was the oldest one in Beijing – almost 100 years old – and we took a professional picture inside. My mom took me there because (the shop) was a symbol for Beijing in people’s hearts. The picture is on a wall in my house in China.”

“When I (was) 30 days old, we hosted a big feast with all of our friends and relatives to show everyone the baby – me! Everyone said blessings and good wishes for the baby and gave red packets, which are filled with money, as gifts.”


Jacqueline Chao Aug. 14

“My mom said that it’s a Chinese tradition to have your photo taken when you are 100 days old. People celebrate because in the old time people (saw) 100 as a lucky number. And since medicine wasn’t as advanced back then, many babies passed away soon after they were born.

“So living, or even surviving, 100 days was really worth celebrating.

“But it’s different now, so that might be why people are drifting away from elaborate celebrations.

“I got really annoyed because they took so long to get the photo. I almost started crying, so they had to hurry up, take the photo and try to get me out of the basket. I was a really bad-tempered kid, I guess.

“That’s when I got stuck in the basket.

“I was a really fat baby, and I guess (the photographers) didn’t think that I was too big to fit. When they tried to reposition me, they couldn’t get me out.”

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Yumi Moon (Korean) July 10

It’s called “doljanchi” – the celebration of a Korean child’s first birthday.

In Korea, parents rent out ballrooms, hire caterers to provide extravagant meals and host gigantic parties all because a first birthday is considered to be the largest milestone of a person’s life, according to sophomore Yumi Moon.

Moon, who was born in South Korea and moved to Sacramento when she was two months old, had her “doljanchi” in the States, so it was comparatively small. Her parents invited about 25 friends and coworkers to their house.

The baby, and in most cases her parents, wears traditional Korean clothing called “hanbok.” A woman’s hanbok is comprised of a long blouse, “jeogori,” and a long skirt, “chima.” Men also wear a “jeogori” but with loose pants. All the articles of “hanbok” are loose and vibrantly colored.

At the cheapest, the outfits are $100-200, Moon said. “Hanbok” is also worn at Lunar New Year’s celebrations and at weddings by the parents of the bride and groom.

Along with gifts of clothes and toys, guests that are close to the family occasionally give the baby golden jewelry. Moon said that these gifts of gold can be a little pricey and that rings in particular are popular.

At the party traditional Korean food is served. Brown sticky noodles (“chap chae”) and potstickers are the main course, followed by rice cakes for dessert.

On the dinner table are usually three to seven cylinders coated with candies, jellies and frosting. These cylinders are not for consumption, only for decoration, and can be bought or homemade. Moon’s mother made them for her daughter’s party.

After the meal comes the main event of the celebration – “doljabi.” The parents clear an area in the middle of the room, lay a blanket on the ground and place several objects on top of it. Moon said that a ball, a pencil, food and gold are most common. The baby is then set on the ground to grab one of the objects.

The object that a child chooses reveals something about their future. If the ball is chosen, the child will be athletic. A pencil means that they will become smart. If they go for the food, the baby will not go hungry. And if gold is selected, the baby will become rich.

“I picked the pencil,” Moon said. “I don’t know if that (prediction) came true though!”

—By Sonja Hansen

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