National Day: December 17
National Day is a public holiday in Bhutan.
National Day in Bhutan is celebrated yearly on December 17. This date remembers the 1907 coronation of the first king of Bhutan, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuk, at Punakha Dzong. The crowning started a period of peace, unity, and prosperity to Bhutan that had previously experienced many years of civil war.
History of National Day in Bhutan
On the 13th day of the 11th month of Sa-tel Lo, or December 17, 1907, monks, councilors, and leaders from different regions of Bhutan gathered to unanimously elect Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuk as their first king. In 1616, Bhutan had been unified by Shabdrung Ngawang, a Buddhist Tibetan that ruled Bhutan for 35 years. After his death, Bhutan waited for his reincarnation to be chosen again as their leader. While they waited, other regional lords tried to assume power through a nationwide civil war. It wasn’t until the 1907 appointal of Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuk as the first King of Bhutan that peace and unity was again brought to Bhutan. Born in 1862, Wangchuk and his father were governors in Bhutan. During the civil war, Ugyen Wangchuck defeated his political enemies and united the country to be crowned Druk Gyalpo, or Precious Ruler of the Dragon People.
Bhutan’s National Day Traditions, Customs and Activities
Celebrations are held in Changlimethang National Stadium, where the king and a statue of Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck are brought in for an elaborate and colorful procession. Many people on this day come from neighboring cities to participate in the National Day events, as well as members of the Royal family, clergy, armed forces, and international community. The national flag is hoisted, followed by the Jibi Pao, a Marchhang ceremony, and Buddhist religious ceremonies to ask protection and guidance. Bhutanese all over the country follow the ceremonies on television — an apparatus not allowed in the country until 1999 — and join the king in religious ceremonies in the the Buddhist temples and dzongs, with flower offerings and candles.