January 14, 2020
Would you like to wish someone Happy New Year in Chinese? This article will introduce this festive phrase and more!
What is the Chinese New Year?
Chinese New Year, or 春节 (chūnjié, Spring Festival) as it is often called in mainland China, celebrates the beginning of a new year based on the traditional Chinese lunar calendar. It is a time for families to come together, exchange 红包 (hóngbāo, red envelopes), and enjoy delicious Chinese food.
2020 marks the Year of the Rat, so let’s learn some useful phrases and 祝福语 (zhùfú yǔ, greetings) for the new year!
Cultural note: In China, people often hold a fist salute or 抱拳礼 (bàoquán lǐ) when saying the below greetings. Top China Travel wrote a great article regarding the Chinese etiquette of the fist and palm salute. Remember that this method of greeting is mainly used during formal occasions, so we suggest to avoid using it during informal encounters!
1. 新年快乐 [xīnnián kuàilè] – Happy New Year!
Saying “xīnnián kuàilè” is the simplest and most straightforward way to wish your Chinese friends, family and colleagues a happy new year. Want to know how to pronounce it? Just watch the following video and repeat!
2. 恭喜发财 [gōng xǐ fā cái] – May you have a prosperous New Year!
In addition to 新年快乐 (xīnnián kuàilè), this is probably the most popular saying you’ll hear around the Chinese New Year. It has been the center of many 贺年歌曲 (hènián gēqǔ, Chinese New Year songs) and literally means “congratulations, make a fortune!”
Learn to sing along to the famous Chinese New Year song “恭喜” (gōngxǐ) in the following video.
3. 鼠年大吉 [Shǔnián dàjí] – Happy Year of the Rat
大吉 (dàjí) is a noun meaning very auspicious or lucky. You can put any given year’s zodiac animal year before 大吉 and use it as a general new year greeting. You can also simply say 大吉大利 (dà jí dà lì), which means “good luck and great prosperity.”
4. 岁岁平安 [suì suì píng ān] – May you have peace year after year
A fun things aspect of Chinese is wordplay based on 同音词 (tóngyīncí, homophones). A great example of this is 岁岁平安. Breaking things during the Chinese new year is a taboo in China as it is believed to bring bad luck resulting in money loss and a family split in the future.
If something does break, you can say “碎碎平安” (suì suì píng ān) which sounds exactly the same as “岁岁平安” (Suì suì píng ān). “碎” means to break, whereas “岁” means age or year and is the character used in 岁岁平安. This is a very clever way to negate all that bad luck!
5. 万事如意 [wàn shì rú yì] – May all your hopes be fulfilled
万 literally means “ten thousand” or “a great number.” When you say 万事如意 to your Chinese friends, you are literally wishing that all matters (万事, ten thousand matters/affairs) be according to his/her wishes (如意)。
6. 你属什么 [Nǐ shǔ shénme]? – What is your zodiac sign?
This is a nice question to ask your Chinese friends! 属 can mean “to belong to” or “to be born in the year of.” In China, it is common to be asked how old you are or what your 生肖 (shēngxiào, Chinese zodiac) is.
Zodiac signs play an integral role in Chinese culture. It is said that your luck regarding financial situations, health and relationships for each year can be calculated based on your zodiac sign.
In response, you can say: 我属 (wǒ shǔ) + insert animal. For example: “我属猴” (Wǒ shǔ hóu, I am a monkey sign).
List of Chinese Zodiac Animals