Next week, we will celebrate the 115th National Day. It is one of the most important days  and Bhutanese look forward to rejoicing on the occasion every year. 

The traditional splendour of the occasion has become a part of our annual calendar. But we often overlook the greater significance behind the festivities.

While it may be true that all functions represent a deeper meaning and effort far more than is visible, the celebration of Bhutan’s National Day is a culmination of traditional skills, expertise, talent, and reverence of the highest order. It is a solemn, yet thrilling experience. 

Today, we need no reminder that National Day is more than an annual function. Nearly every Bhutanese student and adult is aware of the day when Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck was unanimously elected as the kingdom’s first hereditary Monarch by the clergy, the officialdom, and representatives of the people on December 17, 1907. We are grateful for the era of peace and prosperity which replaced a difficult period of instability, internal strife, and external threats.

But what we often take for granted is nearly a century of stability and progress which we have seen since the first National Day. We forget that building on the momentum of progress can be more difficult than creating it. We forget that Bhutanese history is being made every day.

Our elders lament today: “You, young ones, do not know what you have today. You do not realise how far we have come. We used to break our backs to get what you children now take for granted. You don’t appreciate the real significance of progress. You don’t realise the value of what we have achieved as a nation.”  

We fail to appreciate the vision, sacrifices, and commitment of leaders, past and present, which have steered this small kingdom into the 21st century. We sometimes do not realise that Bhutan is one of the most fortunate countries in the world today, not by luck but by foresight, planning, commitment, and effort.

In His Royal address to the nation last month, His Majesty The King called for all Bhutanese to persevere, forge ahead with resolve and be driven by national aspirations. Such a call should echo around the kingdom every day. Bhutanese, in every corner of the country, must be more aware of national achievements, goals, and priorities. 

With the transformations around, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering put it aptly when he said, “Until now we have been carrying the load according to our strength. Now is the time to exert strength according to the load that we must carry.” 

National Day, therefore, is not just a function on December 17. It is a time to reflect on our fortunes and our responsibilities every day of every year.