Yangyel Lhaden

Many Bhutanese celebrated the New Year. But the experience this time was a little different. Covid-19 and lockdown had the people homebound.

Dechen Yangzom, 40, had not missed a single New Year’s Eve party in last 10 years.

This year, Dechen Yangzom spent the night with her younger sister. There was the Ara and snacks and nothing much. “I always used to wake up with a bad hangover; January 1 was always wasted. It was different this time.”

Tshering Yangki’s mother is one of the many Bhutanese whose birthday falls on January 1. The family celebrates her birthday and New Year’s Eve on the 31st every year.

“My mother used to buy snacks and hide it till mid-night as you know how children are,” Tshering Yangki said.

This year Tshering Yangki and her siblings couldn’t be with their parents. They celebrated the New Year and their mother’s birthday away from home with a cake in Thimphu.

Thinley Wangmo, a mother of two, is delighted as the entire family could bond together and celebrate the New Year together this year. “My kids run away right after dinner for the party,” she said.

Students of Sherubtse College in Trashigang marked the occasion in the college for the first time. Usually around this time, they would be home.

Pema Lhamo and her friends at the college made cheese dumplings and baked a cake in the rice cooker for the celebration.

Pema Lhamo’s family usually had a party on New Year’s Eve with a bonfire with neighbours. 

“Only during New Year eve, my mother grants me permission to drink,” she said.

Pema Lhamo said that 2020 had been a difficult year for everybody in some ways but she hoped for a better 2021.

A recent graduate, Kezang Dema, recalls how during New Year’s Eve in 2019 she and her friends drove to Paro as entry fee for parties skyrocketed as hours of New Year drew closer in Thimphu. She was alone at home this time.

Karma Dema, 24, who lives alone in Paro, dozed off before mid-night holding a book in her hands. “What delighted me in the morning was Happy New year messages from family and friends.”