Darwin’s 100th day

Considering how global Darwin’s short life has been so far, I’ve been drawn to borrowing customs and traditions from other cultures to celebrate various milestones in his life. I dutifully tracked when Darwin would turn 100 days old so that we could commemorate the day. It’s a Korean tradition, called baek-il, so I invited some friends to join us at a Korean restaurant for dinner.

(Or, maybe I just used Darwin as an excuse for us to eat Korean food. It’s a strong possibility.)

It took me too long to realize that none of my friends would see the tie between celebrating Darwin’s 100th day and eating Korean food, because it turns out that I’m the only one that obsessively watches Korean soap operas. When I was sequestered in the US during my third trimester, I watched day-long marathons of Smile, Donghae, and there was a long-running arc about the 100th-day celebration for a set of twins. I guess when I watched those characters talk about it over so many episodes, I got the notion stuck in my head that it’s a thing I should do too.

The evening was marked by Darwin getting passed around to every single waitress in the entire establishment. One waitress, Aigul, remembered Darwin from when my dad was visiting Bishkek in January and was ecstatic that we brought him back. She kept popping into our room, asking to hold him, and then whisking him out of sight.

Our friends kept asking me, “Does it make you nervous? Aren’t you worried that you can’t see him?” and I’d laugh and continue staring at the door, watching him come into view long enough to see him passed to someone else.

In the end, Aigul would bring him back (usually just as he started getting fussy), saying something in Russian about how she wanted to take him home.

It was nice to have several babysitters during the meal, but maybe I won’t bring Win back to this particular Korean restaurant anymore.

(Just kidding, it’s one of my favorites.)

During a bit of preparatory research, I found some sources mentioning that one part of the celebration is to place the child in front of various symbolic objects (some sources said they do this on their first birthday, oh well), and whatever object they pick up will tell something about their future. You better believe that we did this.

I gathered things that I already had around the house, some that seemed more traditional than others. He had a book for knowledge, a pen for wisdom, a piece of string for longevity, a (bright orange, plastic cocktail) sword for strength (or a future in the military, depending on the source), a 200 som note for wealth, (the rest are my own additions) a roll of film for photography skills, a guitar pick for musical skills, and his passport for wanderlust.

Darwin isn’t actually so great at grabbing objects yet, so he swatted a couple times and hit the string (long life!), but we mostly just watched for what caught his attention. He stared at his passport a lot, and maybe the book caught a few glances too.

He tried to eat the roll of film, which pleased me immensely. (He didn’t even get his mouth on it, don’t worry, grandparents.)

He’ll live his long life traveling the world, taking pictures and reading. Not bad.

Eventually he grew tired of being passed around and made to decide his future and had to take a nap.

Sleep tight, little guy, and here’s to many hundreds of more days.

6 replies on “Darwin’s 100th day”

  1. I’m currently living in Korea, and I find it really interesting how you celebrated the traditional Korean 100 days celebration in Bishkek. It’s shows that we’re all at liberty to create our own culture and pick and choose which traditions we’d like to follow. My favorite part of this tradition where the baby grabs the item which signifies their future career. Also, your photography is great. Makes me want to make it to this part of the world at some point.


  2. Did you celebrate at either Hoban or Arirang? My fiancee loves both of those places, but I’d love to know of some others that you might know of.

    1. We went to Kyung Bok Kung, it’s on the south side of Chuy in Vostok 5. It’s really good!

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