King’s Birthday Date: November 11
King’s Birthday is a public holiday in Bhutan.
The Kingdom of Bhutan is somewhat unique in that its people function on the premise of Gross National Happiness (GNH). GNH encourages material and spiritual development to complement and reinforce each other. Bhutan’s national holidays are no exception to the principles of GNH, and this certainly includes the birthdays of the Kings of Bhutan past and present.
History of Bhutan King’s Day
There have been five kings in Bhutan since 1907, and there is a birthday celebration for most of them. November 11 marks the birthday of the fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
King Wangchuck was born at the Dechhencholing Palace in Thimphu on November 11, 1955. In 1972, he took the throne at the age of 17 due to the early death of his father, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who suffered from a series of heart conditions.
The new king would follow in his father’s footsteps, attempting to bring about slow but positive democratic change to the people of Bhutan. He was responsible for creating the term “Gross National Happiness”, and he used its principles to guide his decisions. In 2008, he abdicated the throne to his son Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.
The Bhutan people still celebrate the fourth King of Bhutan and his accomplishments on this day.
Bhutan King’s Day Traditions, Customs and Activities
While three days of celebration are dedicated to the reigning king, one day is given to former kings. Events are usually very lively with many of the local schools organizing huge festivals and parades on and near school grounds.
As the government mandates that citizens wear traditional clothing every day, clothing styles don’t differ much during the festivities. And since the country is predominately Buddhist, many of the ceremonies are dominated by Buddhist themes and activities. During the festivities, look for the traditional emadatse (a stew made from chili pepper and cheese), chang (a local beer), or arra (a distilled spirit).