Ritual behavior which occurs in South Korea
In every part of the world, people follow certain patterns and rules that govern their lives, usually based on religion or geographically based tradition. These happenings are called rituals. Rituals are usually followed because of a religious belief, but they often have roots in the social structure of certain regions, and are used to strengthen the community as a whole. Four phases of ritualistic behavior exist, and the rituals will usually fall under one of the four categories, Birth and Childhood , Initiation and Adolescence, Marriage and Adulthood, and finally Death and Remembrance. South Korea as we know it today has only come into existence after World War 2, but the traditions and customs that exist there have been in practice for thousands of years. In the past Korea was largely Buddhist, but today we see a drastically reduced number of religious followers. When looking at the country South Korea , we find that the people living there, like a vast majority of other places, have their own sets of rituals that they follow.
The phase of birth and early childhood in South Korea is a major part of the society. In the past, birth traditions were based entirely on Buddhist beliefs, so the birth was considered not important (by religious opinion) and no attention was given. Aside from the Buddhist traditions (or lack there of) we see that the people of South Korea have their own set of rituals for early childhood and birth. In the past, the chance of a child surviving through the first year of life was far lower than it is today, due to a lack of medical information, Korea’s seasonal temperature differences, and many childhood related diseases. At birth traditionally Koreans would pray to Sanshin (a mountain god) and Samshin (a birth god, also called Samshin-halmuni "grandmother"). It was said that Samshin lived in the cloth that covered the baby. Relatives were not allowed to see the mother and baby up to 21 days after the birth.
After 100 days had past, another celebration was held, the Baek-il, it was used to celebrate the child’s survival up to the 100 day point. The Baek-il has 2 major components; f irst, family members give thanks to Samsin (the three gods who take care of the baby’s life while growing up); second, the family prays for the child’s jae-ak (wealth), longevity, and cho-bok (original luck). After the prayer is over, a large meal is prepared, and each piece of food represents an additional prayer for the child. The foods prepared are: baekseogi (for longevity, representing cleanliness and freshness), susupo-ttteok (to ward off bad things), injeolmi (for solace and patience), and songpyeon (for a healthy mind).