The author of a blog I’m following religiously, Chiyo of Stuff Korean Moms Like, posted an entry about the pride Korean parents (and pretty much all North Asians while you’re at it) take when they give birth to a boy. Traditionally, they hang chili peppers around the house in celebration of the arrival of the ‘jewel of the family’ (for a better explanation, please refer to the entry Their Sons.) I was surprised to find out there is also ‘something to display’ when a girl is born. Sorry about the poor picture, it was taken at the Korean Folk Museum with strong spotlights in the background, but we can still see the 3 strings of decorations. The ones on the left and the right are for boys: chilis (because it looks like a …) and coal (to ward of evil.) The middle one is for girls: folded paper and pine needles.
Now, my friend Ming, with whom I was visiting the museum, observed that the paper looked like tissue paper to wipe tears…. I thought to myself: pine needles, because you want to whip yourself with pine branches upon your failure, the birth of a ‘lesser being’, a girl??? Our friendly yet sticky self-imposed guide explained that the folded paper was to represent purity (read virginity, a paramount virtue for women) and the pine needles were not for self-mortification but to symbolize sewing needles, in hope the girl would become good at embroidery and sewing…. Now THAT is reassuring!!! (I promise, Chiyo, if I’m ever blessed with a baby girl, I’ll hang the decorations YOU suggested around my house!!!)