Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Malcolm's Baek-il party.

February 13th, 2007 marked Malcolm's 100th day. To celebrate the occassion we took Malcolm out for dinner with the whole family.

Here is some history behind this auspicious event in a baby's life:

In premodern Korea infant mortality was high because of a variety of diseases and other health problems that did not respond to herbal medicines. Newborn babies were treated with extra care in an effort to preserve their lives. This generally included taboos against visits by outsiders for the first 21 days of the baby's life, and not formally recognizing the new family member until it was fairly certain that the child was going to survive.

A long time ago it also became customary for families to wait until the 100th day to officially celebrate the birth of a new child with a baek Il (baek eel) or "100th Day Party," making this one of the most auspicious social events in Korean life. Relatives and close friends were invited to participate in the happy event. Baek il parties are still the custom in Korea, and continue to be one of the more important social events that take place regularly throughout the year. Many families, in fact, stage three baek il - one for the father's family, one for the mother's family, and another one for the father's school friends and work colleagues.

Baek il are marked by feasts that include a variety of special foods and drinks. Guests are expected to bring gifts. Families generally take platters of rice cakes and other specialities to their closer neighbors, who respond by bringing gifts for the infants. "100th Day Parties" are always occasions for taking numerous photographs that go into family albums. (In earlier times it was customary to take frontal pictures of baby boys in the nude as a public record of their maleness.) The second milestone in the life of a new baby is its first birthday.

Excerpted from the forthcoming book, "NTC's Dictionary of Korea's Business and Cultural Code Words" (NTC/Contemporary Publishing Company), by Boye Lafayette DeMente. DeMente is an author of more than forty books and currently works as a consultant on Korea, China, and Japan. For more information about his currently available work, check out the Internet site (

By Boye Lafayette De Mente

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