Festivals in Bhutan are an important part of both the religious and cultural development and needs of the people, and are more than just Buddhist rituals and ceremonies.
In Bhutan, a festival, known as a Tshechu, is a religious event that includes a major social gathering, entertainments, festivities, picnics, and time for family and friends.
Bhutan has a three-month period at the end of the year in which majority of the festivals are held across the country, with around 51 major festivals taking place from the beginning of October through December.
December is the biggest month of the year for festivals, and is an ideal time to travel for visiting the festivals, as the tourist season is over and the prices drop by around 20 percent.
Most Popular Bhutan Festivals in December
With twenty-one festivals being held throughout the month (22 if you count the Doedel Pemacholing Tshechu, which begins in November but ends in December), there is no better time to visit Bhutan if you are looking for the festival atmosphere that this beginning of winter brings.
Attending festivals is one of the most exhilarating experiences in Bhutan, as the friendly hospitable people make it an event that you feel included in, and will often push you to the front of the crowds, so you can get a better view.
The Bhutanese people are proud of their unique culture, religion, and heritage, and are always happy to show others how they live their daily lives with Buddhism.
Of the 19 festivals that occur throughout the month, there are three that really stand out above the rest in terms of interest for visitors to the kingdom.
One of those three, held at one of the highest mountain passes in the kingdom, is one of the most outstanding festivals and celebrations in Bhutan.
- Nalakhar Tshechu
- Druk Wangyel Tshechu
- Mongar Tshechu
- More Bhutan Festivals in December
1. Nalakhar Tshechu
Held in one of the most remote countryside towns in Bumthang Dzongkhag in the center of Bhutan, it is one of the best chances you could find to take part and visit a festival in a remote village area that few westerners ever get to see.
Many of the remote villages that hold festivals each year are too remote to get into easily, but this small village has a road leading to it that makes it easier to visit.
The celebrations are held in the Ngaa Lhakhang, in the Choekhor Valley, not far from the Draphe Dzong, the residence of the former ruler of Bumthang until the 17th century.
Also known as the “Swan Temple”, this amazing Lhakhang is filled with local villagers during the three day festival, wearing their finest traditional dress and celebrating the rituals and performances of the festival.
The festival is held as a celebration intended to convey feelings of bliss and prosperity to the townsfolk, and the nation as a whole.
It is also the time to petition the gods for a bountiful harvest to come, and for wishing the blessings of Guru Rinpoche on every living creature.
One of the most well-known celebrations in Bumthang, it draws in crowds from all of the four valleys.
2. Druk Wangyel Tshechu
Alternatively known as the Druk Wangyel Tshechu or the Dochula Tshechu, this unique festival has nothing to do with religion or social gatherings, and is all about celebrating the former Fourth Druk Gyalpo of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
AlternativelyThe festival is held every year since 2011 at the Druk Wangyel Lhakhang Festival Ground at the Dochula Pass, around 22 kilometers from the capital of Thimphu.
AlternativelyThe festival is an exception to the normal rule of Tshechus, in that it is performed by the Royal Bhutan Army instead of the usual priests and local villagers.
As well as celebrating the former king, the festival also pays tribute to the unending endeavors of the Royal Bhutan Army in securing the strength and sovereignty of the nation.
The festival still has the usual dances and performances from singers and Atsara, and monks and lamas are in attendance and offering prayers and offerings for the health and wellness of the 4th Druk Gyalpo as well as his son, the current 5th Druk Gyalpo.
Held against the backdrop of the very mountains that were named after the 4th Dragon King, the magnificent Jigme Singye Wangchuck range, the celebrations are a huge event that is also commemorated in Dzongkhags all across Tibet.
3. Mongar Tshechu
Held in the Mongar Dzong in Mongar Dzongkhag, in the east of Bhutan, the Mongar Tshechu is one of the most underrated festivals in Bhutan, and is largely left out when it comes to tourist trips to Mongar for the Tshechu.
A huge festival held in the amazing Mongar Dzong, built on the spot where an architect from Paro, invited to the area by a local ancient king, Karpo Dung, found a white stone bowl lying on the ground on the top of a mound of dry earth.
The Dzong is also unique in that it does not lie on a strategic place for national defense, but on a gently sloping piece of land above the town of Mongar, formerly Zhongkar.
The festival is performed over four days, and after the initial rituals and ceremonies, moves on to some of the most extravagant festivities in eastern Bhutan.
The festival is known to draw in crowds from as far away as Trashigang and Lhuentse, and the performances contain a number of Cham Dances that are unique to the Mongar Dzongkhag.
4. More Bhutan Festivals in December
A long month of festivals, December is the perfect time for those who are interested in seeing the many sights and delights of the Tshechus in this devoutly religious Buddhist kingdom to join in a Bhutan Festival tour.
As with most of the other months, there are a good number of festivals in the Bumthang Dzongkhag, though most of the other areas of Bhutan have already had their major festivals by this time of year.
However, there is one place to visit where you are almost guaranteed to get to see a festival somewhere.
Zhemgang, a large Dzongkhag in the south of the kingdom, plays host to a total of nine major festivals between the tenth and twelfth of December every year.
All of the major Tshechus are held on the same two days from the 10th to the 12th, with the other festivals being held over a single day on the 12th of December.