Chinese New Year, perhaps the most widely celebrated holiday in the world, typically takes place in January or February, after the Gregorian New Year on January 1. Whether you'll be spending it in China or in a Chinatown in your own city, knowing how to wish people a happy new year in the local tongue is a nice touch.
Come January 25, 2020, families and friends will be feasting, partaking in centuries-old superstitions, and spending time together to celebrate Chinese New Year. With vibrant celebrations taking place from Sydney to San Francisco, you'll have plenty of opportunities to pay your respects and well wishes to the Chinese, especially if you know the customary greetings.
About Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is a massive, international celebration. With people scattered around the globe observing the Lunar New Year, you're sure to find fireworks, parades, and street fairs in nearly every major city.
Although the first few days are the most observed, Chinese New Year actually runs for 15 consecutive days and ends with the Lantern Festival. Preparations take place for weeks in advance to ensure that this period is filled with luck and prosperity (two things the Chinese value immensely).
This is a time for family and lots of food. Firecrackers are thrown in abundance to frighten away unlucky spirits, and red is worn, even red underwear, because of its symbolic meaning. Children receive small gifts and money in red envelopes called lai see and various figures from history are honored.
"Happy New Year" in Mandarin
Unlike Western New Year's Eve celebrations, which tend to be about short-lived resolutions to improve ourselves, the primary goal of Chinese New Year traditions is to usher in good luck and prosperity in the new year.
With such vast variations in Chinese culture and ethnic groups around the world, there are many ways to say "happy new year" in Chinese. Most of them are rooted in luck and financial success.
- Gong Xi Fa Cai: Pronounced "gong zee fah tsai," gong xi means "congratulations" and is also a way to wish one joy. Fa cai is to become rich or make money. In essence, you are wishing one joy and prosperity in the new year. Business owners and workmates use gong xi fa cai as the usual way to say "happy new year" in Chinese.
- Xin Nian Kuai Le: Pronounced "sheen neean kwai luh," kuai le means "happy" or "joyous," and xin nian means "new year." Xin nian kuai le is a great way to say happy new year in Chinese to friends without referencing money.
"Happy New Year" in Cantonese
Cantonese is the language primarily spoken by the people of Hong Kong. The Cantonese "happy new year" greeting differs slightly from the Mandarin version, even though both are actually written the same way.
- Gong Hey Fat Choy: In Cantonese, gong hey fat choy is the equivalent of gong xi fa cai in Mandarin, simply meaning "congratulations and prosperity."