One year old at birth

Last night we had a guest at our table, a guest staying in our B&B from South Korea enjoyed a dinner of Dutch pancakes and chocolate vla for dessert 🙂

I was happy to see she loves a pancake with Dutch cheese and spinach as much as I do ;-), but the best part I think was the conversation over dinner, the exchange of daily life info. When talking about age she told me that the Koreans have a different age from us, as they calculate it differently:

When a baby is born they are 1 year old. Considering the baby spent 9 months in the womb it makes sense to count that time too, so yes, almost one when born. Then, on the first New year’s Day they turn 2. Resulting in a baby born on the 29th of December turning 2 years old only a few days after birth! They do celebrate the first birthday’s anniversary – which would be like our first birthday – with a ceremony called Dol, an important ceremony, blessing the child with a prosperous future where babies wear a hanbok and a traditional hat, different versions for boys and girls. Having survived the first year of life is worth a celebration, dating back from when times were much harder, with many newborns dying.

korean age

A South Korean baby celbrating his first birthday, sitting behind the traditional Dol table

From there each New Year’s Day (traditionally this was at the beginning of lichun – usually February 4, sometimes February 5th- which is the first of the 24 solar terms) one year is added to the person’s age. This way people may be one or two years older in traditional Korean reckoning than in the modern age system. Both modern (western) and traditional counting are used nowadays, and it is something that you would ask about when informing about someone’s age. Actually, to be allowed to buy alcohol or tobacco they go by the birthday, as stated in a passport or other official document.

A more elaborate explanation of the Korean age reckoning is here.

About Wilson

relentless hunter gatherer of soothing beauty, great and small
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