Christmas phalluses welcome a rare Bhutanese legend
An XO Private Story by Zoila Checa

Berlin’s famous Galeries Lafayette celebrates Bhutan’s culture and original protective symbol with six phallic Christmas trees. In this XO Private Story, we delve into the stunning Bhutanese culture and the story behind the symbol of the phallus, brought to our attention by The Department of Tourism of Bhutan, one of our latest exhibitors at ILTM Cannes.

Hanging phallic pendants outside Galeries Lafayette, in Berlin
The clock tics yet another hour towards an imminent Christmas day, and with it comes a new sprouting of Christmas trees in homes and department stores all over the world. Six of those trees, however, have been adorning Berlin’s famous shop windows at Galeries Lafayette with some rather original and unmatched ornaments since the first week of December. Forget the tinsel and the cheerful beaming lights; these chivalrous firs bare no less than plentiful colourful phalluses all over.

Yes, you read that right. The novel decoration has left many passers-by astonished by this quite unusual sighting at Französische Strasse. At first glance, many have confused the ornaments with weirdly shaped hanging candles, while they are in fact penises of all shapes, colours and sizes dangling from the trees’ branches. Funnily enough, some even have quite expressive faces drawn on them too! But what is the point of it all?
Clients viewing the Phallic Christmas Tree outside Berlin's Galeries Lafayette / Photo: Charles Yunck
Although this may initially come as a culture shock, the image and symbol of a phallus has absolutely no sexual connotation in some countries. So much so, that these ‘phallic’ Christmas trees in Galeries Lafayette have been created by a devoted artist to highlight the culture of the Kingdom of Bhutan, on the eastern border of the Himalayas, via an unprecedented advertisement. Next to the trees, a QR code on the window shop can be scanned to reveal that it is a touristic ad, as well as to discover the true story behind the use of penis pendants.

Bhutan, located about 1 hour and 30 minutes away from New Delhi, is one of those ancient places where Buddhism reigns freely, spreading its veil of peace and beauty all over the territory. But apart from its natural beauty, which includes sights such as the Tiger’s Nest Monastery or the fortress of Punakha Dzong, one of the most popular Bhutanese attractions is undoubtedly its ‘phallic myth’ and the temple of Chimi Lhakhang, some 65 kilometres from Thimphu, the capital.
Chimi Lhakhang Temple in Bhutan
Upon arriving to the famed temple, the surrounding village greets visitors with hundreds of white prayer flags, along with a vast peppering of grand phallic paintings, murals and figures on the facades of most homes, windows, and even as massive totems placed outdoors to protect people from bad fortune. Anywhere and everywhere, penises of all shades and sizes confront your very gaze: some stand ejaculating proudly, others are shaved, some have hairy testicles, and many bare distinct heated faces or decorations such as wings and serpent-like additions. Initially this may be a little scandalous, but after a short walk and coming across various phallic souvenirs on the way too (e.g. keyrings, mugs, door stoppers), the golden-roofed temple awaits with a parade of monks.
Phallic Mural in Bhutan / Photo: ImageBROKER-Alamy-Stock
The sanctuary, which is said to guard an innate power, is frequently visited by women and couples who desire having children soon, since it is also known to be the ‘fertility temple’. Both the temple and the phallic tradition can be traced back to Drukpa Kunley, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher that travelled to Bhutan as a monk and preached his own wisdom and beliefs. It was the 15th century when Kunley introduced phallus worshipping as a method to ward off evil spirits. These would become more of a protective idol, and it all came down to his divine missions, in which he overpowered demons and conveyed his knowledge to many Bhutanese women with his penis.
Couple attending the Fertility Temple to ask for a blessing / Photo: Getty Images
Exterior facade of a home in Bhutan
Today, he is known as the ‘Divine Mad-man’, a glorious saint who dared to criticise the strict social norms of the conventional monks, who among things believed in celibacy. He, of course, in no way agreed with this, and in turn wanted to demonstrate that one could give enlightment while still leading a prodigious sex life. He was a radical for his time – he was extreme, drank alcohol plentifully, and used his powerful penis as the ‘Thunderbolt of Wisdom’ during his numerous sexual adventures. As a result, today, the image of the phallus is adored as a symbol representing protection, good luck and fertility. A great wish and blessing for Christmas, right?

According the Galeries Lafayette in Berlin, their original advert has been a success, and they have solely received positive feedback upon discovering the surprising story behind it all. As one of their spokesperson said to a local news outlet: "Our customers particularly appreciate our company for such activities". So, next time we hang our ornaments on the Christmas tree, should we consider adding a touch of Bhutanese flair? Who knew that festive phalluses could bring such cultural illumination to the holiday season! Merry Christmas!
Phallus souvenirs in the village of Bhutan
Wooden Phallus Garden in Bhutan
Zoila Checa
Zoila's true passion lies in the art of storytelling, whether that is in print, online, or on screen. Bilingual in English and Spanish since she was born, and versatile by nature, she has a professional background in journalism, travel writing, and screen acting, all of which have led her to live and work in places like London, Madrid, Ibiza and Los Angeles. For Zoila, writing serves as an ingenious channel to convey her profound love for soulful travel, singular cultures, and their transformative impact. She currently resides in Mallorca, her native island in Spain.