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
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.
|(name), I wish you…|
(prefix to the following wishes)
|zuk nei…||zhù nín…||祝您…|
|(name), I hope you…|
(a more casual prefix to the following wishes)
|hei mong nei…||xīwàng nǐ…||希望你…|
|Happy new year||sun nin fai lok||xīn nián kuài lè||新年快樂|
|Wish you prosperity||gong hei fat choy||gong xi fat chai||恭喜發財|
|Wish you good health||sun tai gin hong||shēn tǐ jiàn kāng||身體健康|
|Wish you good luck||dai gat dai lei||dàjí dàlì||大吉大利|
|May all your wishes come true||sum seung si sing||xīn xiǎng shì chéng||心想事成|
|Wish you a happy family||hap ga hang fuk||hé jiā xìng fú||闔家幸福|
|Wish you stay young always||ching cheun seung jyu||qīngchūn cháng zhù||青春常駐|
|Wish that you get everything you want||maan si yu yi||wàn shì rú yì||萬事如意|
|Wish you progress in your studies||hok yip jun bo||xuéxí jìnbù||學業進步|
|Wish you success in your studies||hok yip yau sing||xuéyè yǒuchéng||學業有成|
|Wish your work goes smoothly||gung zok sun lei||gōngzuò shùnlì||工作順利|
|Wish you surplus wealth every year||nin nin yau yu||nián nián yǒuyú||年年有餘|
|Wish you have many sources of wealth||choi yun gwong jeun||cáiyuán guǎng jìn||財源廣進|
|Wish you have a lot of business||sang yi hing lung||shēngyì xīnglóng||生意興隆|
|Wish your venture would end successfully||ma dou gung sing||mǎ 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.
Concerning what to say specifically during the exchange of red envelopes, check out our guide to lai see etiquette.
Chinese New Year sayings
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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Don’t wash your hair on the first day of the new year or you’ll wash away your good luck.
- 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.
💡 More stories about Chinese New Year 💡
Header image credits: szeyuen via Canva