Chinese New Year is the most important festival in Chinese culture.
It is celebrated on the new moon of the first month according to the lunar calendar and is a time for family reunions and scrumptious feasts.
While Chinese New Year is celebrated in Asian countries like China and Singapore, it is also celebrated in Chinatowns spanning New York City to San Francisco.
Take the time to learn about traditions and how to wish others a happy new year in Chinese so that you can also partake in Chinese New Year festivities wherever you are in the world.
How Long Is Chinese New Year?
Chinese New Year traditionally lasts from the first day to the 15th day of the New Year (which is the Lantern Festival), but the demands of modern life mean that most people don’t get such an extended holiday.
Still, the first five days of the New Year are an official holiday in Taiwan, while workers in Mainland China and Singapore get at least 2 or 3 days off.
A chance to leave the problems of the previous year behind, it is important to start the New Year fresh. This means cleaning up the house and buying new clothes.
Homes are decorated with red paper banners which have auspicious couplets written on them. These are hung around doorways and are intended to bring luck to the household for the coming year.
Red is an important color in Chinese culture, symbolizing
prosperity. Many people will wear red clothing during the New Year celebrations, and houses will have many red decorations such as Chinese knotwork.
Red envelopes (hóng bāo) are given to children and unmarried adults. Married couples also give red envelopes to their parents.
The envelopes contain money. The money must be in new bills, and the total amount must be an even number. Certain numbers (such as four) are bad luck, so the total amount should not be one of these unlucky numbers.
“Four” is a homonym for “death”, so a red envelope should never contain $4, $40, or $400.
Evil spirits are said to be driven away by loud noise, so Chinese New Year is a very loud celebration. Long strings of firecrackers are set off throughout the holiday, and there are many displays of fireworks lighting up the evening skies.
Some countries such as Singapore and Malaysia restrict the use of fireworks, but Taiwan and Mainland China still allow the nearly unrestricted use of firecrackers and fireworks.
The Chinese zodiac cycles every 12 years, and each lunar year is named after an animal. For example:
Rooster: January 28, 2017 - February 18, 2018
Dog : February 19, 2018 - February 04, 2019
Pig: February 05, 2019 - January 24, 2020
Rat: January 25, 2020 - February 11, 2021
Ox: February 12, 2021 - January 31, 2022
Tiger : February 1, 2022 - February 19, 2023
Rabbit: February 20, 2023 - February 8, 2024
Dragon: February 10, 2024 - January 28, 2025
Snake: January 29, 2025 - February 16, 2026
Horse: February 17, 2026 - February 5, 2027
Sheep: February 6, 2027 - January 25, 2028
Monkey: January 26, 2028 - February 12, 2029
How to Say Happy New Year in Mandarin Chinese
There are many saying and greeting associated with the Chinese New Year.
Family members, friends, and neighbors greet each other with congratulations and wishes for prosperity. The most common greeting is 新年快乐 – Xīn Nián Kuài Lè; this phrase directly translates to “Happy New Year.”
Another common greeting is 恭喜发财 – Gōng Xǐ Fā Cái, which means "Best wishes, wishing you prosperity and wealth." The phrase can also colloquially be shortened to just 恭喜 (gōng xǐ).
In order to get their red envelope, children have to bow to their relatives and recite 恭喜发财，红包拿来 Gōng xǐ fā cái, hóng bāo ná lái. This means "Best wishes for prosperity and wealth, give me a red envelope."
Here is a list of Mandarin greetings and other phrases that are heard during the Chinese New Year. Audio files are marked with
Pinyin Meaning Character
gōng xǐ fā cái Congratulations 恭喜发财
xīn nián kuài lè Happy New Year 新年快乐
guò nián Chinese New Year 过年
suì suì ping ānSaid if something岁岁平安
New Year to
ward off bad luck.
nián nián yǒu yú Wishing you 年年有余
fàng biān pào set off 放鞭炮
nián yè fàn New Year’s Eve 年夜饭
chú jiù bù xīn Relace the old 除旧布新
with the new
bài nián pay a New Year’s visit 拜年
hóng bāo Red Envelope 红包
yā suì qián money in the 压岁钱
gōng hè xīn xǐ Happy New Year 恭贺新禧
__nián xíng dà yùn Good luck __年行大运
for the year
of the __.
tiē chūn lián red banners 贴春联
bàn nián huò New Year shopping 办年货
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