I celebrated my birthday last December 7th. My parents-in-law stayed with us, after celebrating “jesa” or ancestral rites. I usually wake up early to prepare breakfast for my parents whenever they’re here. However, since it was my birthday my mom-in-law woke up earlier than moi and prepared seaweed soup along with other side dishes. It was a typical Korean breakfast with kimchi, fried fish, spinach and more.
Why do Koreans serve “miyeok guk” (Hangeul: 미역국) or seaweed soup on birthdays? It’s to remind the celebrator of the mother’s hardship in giving birth. After giving birth, moms are given this soup so they could recuperate faster. It is believed that the nutrients will help the uterus to shrink faster and the joints stronger. Aside from that, new moms are encouraged not to do heavy work. It is traditional for the mother-in-law to look after her daughter-in-law who had just given birth. New mothers are also asked not to take a bath or a shower for 21 days! No kidding! The day after I gave birth, I took a shower and got a good scolding from my parents-in-law. I knew they meant well though ;p