On 2 January, Bhutan celebrates the equivalent of what much of the rest of the world celebrates on 1 January. Nyilo, meaning “good year”, is a public holiday in Bhutan that celebrates the Winter Solstice, the turning of the seasons, and the coming of a new year.
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Winter solstice falls on 21 or 22 December, but Bhutan’s people keep up their Nyilo traditions on 2 January nonetheless.
The winter solstice is important to many cultures around the world, and to the people of the western region of Bhutan, because it is the day in mid-winter when the number of hours of daily sunshine begins to increase. This is a harbinger of spring.
On Nyilo, people in Bhutan believe that their past wrongdoings and mistakes can be put behind them. Any good deeds done on Nyilo are thought to have extra value. To celebrate, many will visit a local dzong or temple and light lamps fueled by butter to seek to multiply the value of their good deeds.
Children may go around town, singing traditional chants at each door. They wish each household well for the year ahead and receive a gift of food or a small amount of money in return.