My niece celebrated her first birthday
last month seven months ago. (I started writing this post a long time ago!) Like most American children’s birthday parties, it was accompanied by family, food and fun. But this was not your typical birthday party. It is a Doljanchi (also referred to as a Dol), a Korean first birthday, with the same constructs as the American birthday but combined with traditions like a Dol Table (featuring Dol Towers, fruit, banner, rice cakes, etc.), Dol-Bok (traditional outfit), traditional food and of course the Doljabi event (baby foretells the future). This is a big deal.
So for my niece’s Doljanchi, I committed to making two Dol Towers — a chook-dol tower and the other with her American name, Hana. The chook-dol tower means congratulations / celebration and the name tower can be the child’s Korean name. Both will stay within the traditional confines and be decorated with dried beans. It is also popular and more modern to make towers decorated with candy. I did not go this route for this celebration, but considered it for my own daughters.
For my daughter I decided to reuse the chook-dol tower from Hana’s party (so I didn’t have to make a new one!). I did decide to make a tower with my daughter’s name and one with her Chinese zodiac sign, the snake. Since the snake tower took over 60 hours I ruled out any additional towers.
Items For (One) Dol Tower:
- Glue Gun
- Glue Sticks (jumbo pack)
- Cylinder Base (I used a paper towel roll individually wrapped)
- Beans (2 bags of Lima beans, 1 black bean and 1 white bean)(snake: 2 white bean, 1 black bean, 1 green lentil bean)
- Newspaper (to cover the work surface)
- Clearcote or Shellac (optional)
I don’t have bulk food section in local grocery store so I had to buy bags of beans. If you are going to buy bulk, don’t get the exact amount. Allow for some extra as the size of each bean varies and it is good to have a selection when trying to fit it in certain areas. For the two towers (not including the snake), I used 3 bags of Lima, 2 white bean and 1 black bean with leftovers of each. The snake tower took a bag of lima beans, an additional bag of white beans as well as use of the leftovers of the white and black beans from the other towers.
For the cylinder base, there are a lot of options — concrete or building forms, cardboard wrapped around wood bases, formula canisters stacked together, oatmeal canisters or paper towel rolls. Whichever you choose, you are looking for something 11″ high and 6″ wide. The easiest route for me was a paper towel roll as I just had a baby.
If you are looking to use the tower again, I would recommend a sturdy base and sealing it with clearcote or shellac.
The two towers (not including the zodiac/snake tower) took me over 30 hours to do (not consecutively of course!). I would give yourself a work space that won’t be disturbed and is comfortable! I was particular to how the beans were placed so it looked uniform. If you are more casual about it, I am sure the time would take less!
OberBargain Tip: I used advanced planning again to use coupons for my Michaels trip. For the paper towels, I didn’t buy an expensive brand but opted for the cheaper private label. For three towers (chook-dol, name and Chinese zodiac) including the clearcote, cost $25. Great savings when these go for up to $125 each!
WHAT TO SAY
Typically the towers are featured in odd numbers. What to say? As mentioned above, it is most common to have the traditional chook-dol tower meaning congratulations / celebration and a tower with the baby’s name (typically the korean name). Another traditional tower featured is one with the Chinese zodiac sign. These traditional towers are typically made with beans. Outside of the traditional, towers are comprised of designs and decorated with candy. For the purpose of this post, we are sticking with the traditional. (Non-traditional will be another day ) So now that you know what you want to say.
1. Create the characters or image. I did it in word and imported the Korean language. (I also had my husband double check what it said. I am glad it did because it wasn’t even close to correct.)
- If you don’t want to create it, you can download a PDF of the chook-dol characters or zodiac symbol on the Korean 1st Birthday website
2. Then made a border around the characters and print it out.
PREPARING THE BASE
3. Place newspaper over the work surface.
4. Tape the paper printed with the design or wording onto the cylinder.
- I also taped a blank paper to the other side of the cylinder since I used a paper towel and there was colorful writing on the other side that I didn’t want to come through.
- Be careful not to use too much tape as the glue doesn’t stay very well on it.
ADDING THE BEANS
5. Using the glue gun, start glueing the beans to the paper.
- I found it helpful to pour out the beans that I was using and segregate them into piles based on size as I went. This was quick and helpful for places I needed small beans or large.
- For the chook-dol and name, I started with the black rectangle border first, then the body of the cylinder. I left then did the characters inside the border and added the white beans last based on space. I found this system worked best for me.
- For the snake, I did the border of the snake first and then the detail (with the black beans). I then added the green lentils. Some recommended gluing a small area of the paper with hot glue and pressing the lentils into it. It did not work for me (at all). It made a mess and I found I had a lot of spaces that I had to individually glue lentils to (after cleaning the mess from my hands). Maybe it will work for you! I found it easier (and cleaner) to just glue the lentils individually. Crazy, yes, but it came out so much nicer then the other method! I then added the white beans.
- I was going to add a chevron pattern to the back of the zodiac tower but it look HORRIBLE! I ripped it out, taped paper to cover the area and just went with the basic pattern. Should you decide to do a pattern on the back, my advice would be to stay with beans of similar size. The beans I was going to use were too big and it looked awkward.
- I saved the top of the tower last and added whatever patterns free handed as I glued the beans.
Although the project took a long time to complete, I am glad I had so much attention to detail as I am happy with the way it came out. These will be pieces that we can display for years to come!