The Custom of Respecting the Elders and Sixty-year-old Birthday Banquet

From of old, the Korean nationality has regarded the custom of respecting the elders as a fairly important etiquette and moral standard in the family and the whole social life. For example, young boys and girls should address the seniority respectfully; smoking and drinking are not allowed in the face of elders unless you have to drink, you should drink with the back towards the elders; when dining, rice and dishes should first be served to the elders and the seniors. When guests come, tables and banquets should be arranged separately for the elder guests. Delicacies should be put in front of the elders. The juniors should not take the delicacies before the seniors move their chopsticks; when you meet a senior person on the way, whether you are acquainted or not, you should greet him or her; a ceremonious “sixty-year-old birthday banquet” is held when an old person is sixty years of age, which further embodies the traditional virtues.

In the eyes of the Korean nationality, being sixty years of age is a milestone on the road of life. Thus, the Korean people pay much attention to and are particular about the ceremony of sixty-year-old birthday. At the appointed time, sons and daughters should try their best to prepare canonicals and grand birthday celebrations for the elders – sixty-year-old birthday banquet. At the banquet, the old person wears a full dress, sitting at the middle of a “long life table” accompanied by seniors in the neighborhood. It is time to congratulate on the old person’s birthday. Sons, daughters, offspring of close relatives and their spouses, in the order of males first, females later and older ones first, younger ones later, lead by the eldest son, walk in turns to the table, worship the old person on bended knees, and drink a toast to the parent to thank him or her for bring up them and wish them health and long life, singing “Happy Birthday, Mum”:

The family happily gathers under the same roof to congratulate on mother’s six-year-old birthday,
Happy laughters and cheerful voices are heard, warm currents gush to the mind.
Oh, dear mum! Wishing you long life, wishing you long life,
Your son and daughter-in-law hold a grand sixty-year-old birthday banquet for you, and propose a toast for your health.

You have brought sons and daughters with much ado, and they will bear it in mind,
Wishing you to enjoy your late years, and we propose a toast to you.
Oh, dear mum! Wishing you long life, wishing you long life,
Your daughters and sons-in-law propose a toast for your health.

You have also brought up grandsons and granddaughters, and they offer birthday felicitations to you,
They dance happily and trippingly to wish you long-time happiness.
Oh, dear mum! Wishing you long life, wishing you long life,
Grandsons and granddaughters bend before you to wish you long life.
(If it is the father’s birthday, substitute “Dad” for “Mum”)