One Rotation Around the Sun, Cultural Mash-Up Style

Because his Canadian parents met in Korea, Q had a 돌잡이 (doljabi) to help celebrate his first birthday.

In our version, for the purposes of explanation and adaptation, we asked guests – fellow teachers, expats and neighbours, many of whom help to make up our family away from home – to bring an item that represented something they would like to invite into Q’s future.

After a delicious taco bar spread, completing both nourishment and cultural amalgamation, the objects were set up amidst careful deliberation. Guests jostled for position, rotating or switching items to enhance enticement, and debated the meaning of various predictions represented. Furniture was rearranged, people ousted from their seats, as various angles were examined. When the guest of honour returned from his ritual bath, he was placed first in front of the more traditional items: a string (for long life), money (for riches), a notebook (for academic pursuits) and a ball (for athleticism). After some entertaining confusion during which he excitedly went after the box previously used to distract him during his diaper change, and then his blocks already disheveled from play time, he lunged for the pencil laying across the notebook. To his surprise, he could not continue his exploration or play thanks to the startling noise that erupted from the waiting crowd.

Bear witness: the fates, alongside Q’s own counsel, have deemed an academic future.


In round 2, the items were more varied and Q was a little more interested. We watched as his eyes scanned the view, gliding from object to object in a lively dance of deliberation. The crowd could sense his awareness of their presence. He paused, hesitating, unsure. He touched the Buddha statue, again drawing his hand back almost immediately once the reaction of his momentarily forgotten audience impressed itself upon his ears. Then, in an act of valiant bravery and triumph, he grabbed the box of paints, immersing himself in their colours, shakability and splendour. He seemed to purely and deeply welcome this future into his present, until the very moment the green paint burst open and splashed across his carefully adorned pajamas, his clean and ready for bed hands, and the floor upon which guests should momentarily trod. Alas, before he could fully embody his artist soul, in fact just as his hands reached down to paint his first masterpiece, he was whisked away for a costume change and his future sealed forever.

All in due time my little academic, spiritual artist, who really announced from the start that he will chose his own fate by balking the items we set out altogether, and who we will, with readers as our witnesses, support in any endeavour you choose (including, but preferably not limited to: video gaming, football playing, Fox news-watching, and Mustang-driving). All in due time.


In other news:

In the ongoing debate about what is and is not cultural appropriation (yoga just cannot be because it has inclusion in its very culture… however I can accept that the prohibitive expense of modern urban studios might be [yes, rent, I know, ah!]; dressing like Maui for Halloween may be ok, if you don’t attempt to imitate the tattoos; using hip hop for advertising definitely is) we decided that a) our willingness to discuss the matter plus b) the absence of profit from the endeavour plus c) our genuine desire to include an aspect of a culture very special to us in a moment very important to us was enough to go ahead. This debate fascinates me in general since it has so much to do with profit, and privilege, but also because culture by its very nature evolves and gets adopted. What do you think?

But most importantly….

생일 축하 큐!
Feliz cumpleaños Q!
Happy birthday Q!

You beautiful,
culturally mixed up,
incredible and
abundantly loved,
baby boy.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Great write up! I told you I couldn’t wait to read this. I appreciate your deliberation at the bottom of the article about cultural appropriation. I enjoyed learning about this cultural tradition and think it’s pretty cool that you got to experience it in Korea. I wouldn’t have ever heard about it otherwise. I am super excited to watch Q grow into the spiritual, artistic writer. 🙂


  2. This is an interesting, insightful and hopeful post. I love how you woven all the details together. What an adventure you will have with this little one! Happy Birthday to Q! (My youngest son, who is 16, has a friend named Q , as well – his given name is Quentin).


  3. jennaknee says:

    Oh hey just casually making my first comment on your blog. Loved this write-up and loved the celebration of an incredible one-year-old! I also like that you included your thoughts on cultural appropriation at the end. It’s a topic with so many nuances that sometimes I find it tiring to talk to people about it. (Please remind me to tell you about a particularly egregious example I just experienced.) But I’m 100% on the same page as you, and I agree that because you weren’t profiting from this and because this was a clear homage to a culture you have a connection to, it’s not appropriation.

    Anyway, how very like you to include something so thoughtful at the end of a post about a one-year-old’s birthday party and how very like me to write an essay the first time I make a comment. So happy he had a great time. He is delightful!


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