Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year is the beginning of a brand new year in the lunar calendar, which falls on 22 January 2023 this year. The celebration of the new lunar year represents fresh beginnings, during which good luck is accumulated for the rest of the year through ritual practices as well as the exchange of verbal wishes and gifts exchanged between loved ones.

In Hong Kong and China, the festival is celebrated over 15 days, during which relatives and friends engage in baai nin (拜年, bai nian in Mandarin). Baai means the respectful clasp of one hand over a fist in front of your chest, and together with nin, meaning year, refers to the activity of visiting a friend or family’s home to exchange gifts and good wishes for the new year. Here, learn the Chinese New Year wishes you can say in Cantonese and Mandarin to wish others luck in their activities in the new year and how to respond to other’s wishes.

Chinese New Year greetings

family members wish each other chinese new year
Hands are respectfully clasped when wishing another a Happy New Year (© Kzenon via Canva)

These greetings are roughly organized by priority. That is, the most important phrases to know which can be said to almost anyone are at the top. As you go down, the greetings become more specific to wish another luck in whatever venture or life path they are pursuing.

EnglishCantoneseMandarinChinese characters
(name), I wish you…
(prefix to the following wishes)
zuk neizhù nín祝您…
(name), I hope you…
(a more casual prefix to the following wishes)
hei mong neixīwàng nǐ希望你…
Happy new yearsun nin fai lokxīn nián kuài lè新年快樂
Wish you prosperitygong hei fat choygong xi fat chai恭喜發財
Wish you good healthsun tai gin hongshēn tǐ jiàn kāng身體健康
Wish you good luckdai gat dai leidàjí dàlì大吉大利
May all your wishes come truesum seung si singxīn xiǎng shì chéng心想事成
Wish you a happy familyhap ga hang fukhé jiā xìng fú闔家幸福
Wish you stay young alwaysching cheun seung jyuqīngchūn cháng zhù青春常駐
Wish that you get everything you wantmaan si yu yiwàn shì rú yì萬事如意
Wish you progress in your studieshok yip jun boxuéxí jìnbù學業進步
Wish you success in your studieshok yip yau singxuéyè yǒuchéng學業有成
Wish your work goes smoothlygung zok sun leigōngzuò shùnlì工作順利
Wish you surplus wealth every yearnin nin yau yunián nián yǒuyú年年有餘
Wish you have many sources of wealthchoi yun gwong jeuncáiyuán guǎng jìn財源廣進
Wish you have a lot of businesssang yi hing lungshēngyì xīnglóng生意興隆
Wish your venture would end successfullyma dou gung singmǎ dào gōngchéng馬到功成

You can combine some of these; for example, “Happy new year and good health!” (zuk nei sun nin fai lok, sun tai gin hong), “Happy new year and happy family!” (zuk nei sun nin fai lok, hop gah heung fook), and “Happy new year and may you get everything you desire!” (sun nin fai lok, maan si yu yi) are very common combos of Chinese New Year wishes.

See also
The Cultural Guide To Chung Yeung Festival: Ascending Heights To Rebalance Yang Energy

Concerning what to say specifically during the exchange of red envelopes, check out our guide to lai see etiquette.

Lunar New Year Greetings in Cantonese
Chinese New Year greetings (© The HK HUB)

Chinese New Year sayings

lucky round chinese new year fruits
Lucky fruits are consumed and displayed during the Lunar New Year (© iPandastudio via Canva)

It is believed that what is done during the 15-day lunar new year celebration sets the tone for the rest of one’s year. Certain sayings guide one in how to avoid bad luck during this energetically sensitive period. (All of the following romanizations are the Cantonese pronunciation.)

  1. Don’t cut pears, eat them whole. The Chinese word for ‘cut pear’ sounds like the word “separate” (fun lei, 分離) and could lead to separation between friends or couples. On the other hand, round fruits like oranges and apples symbolize good luck and togetherness and are eaten in abundance during this time.
  2. Don’t buy books. The Chinese word for “book” (shu, 書) is the same character for the word “lose” and could lead to losing in gambling.
  3. Be aware that it’s easy to get into arguments on the third day of the new year. The saying lin cho sam chek hau, 年初三 赤口), meaning “third day of the New Year, red mouth.” Arguing during this time could bring similar energy into the rest of the year.
  4. Don’t buy shoes. The Chinese word for shoes sounds like the exasperated sigh “hai“, (唉) and you could bring frustration on yourself for the rest of the year.
  5. Don’t wash your hair on the first day of the new year or you’ll wash away your good luck.
  6. Clean your house up until the lunar new year, then don’t clean your house for the first few days of the new year, or you’ll sweep away your wealth.
See also
Cultural Guide To Chinese New Year, The Most Important Festival In Asia

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Header image credits: szeyuen via Canva

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Born in Canada, Danielle is deep diving into the things that make Hong Kong a city of intermingling identities, and bridging the information gap as someone trying to navigate the city herself as a cultural inbetweener. Sometimes this means examining culture and local people’s stories, and other times it means drinking all the milk tea and doing walking explorations of peripheral districts.

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