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Happy New Year – Chinese Greetings and Sayings

Chinese New Year greeting card

Chinese New Year, often abbreviated as CNY, is a big time. Lion, Dragon & Unicorn dances, Kung Fu demonstrations, parties, food and more fill the days with a celebratory buzz.

And it’s common to wish people a "Happy New Year!"

But just how do you do it?

Well, there’s many different ways of expressing Happy Chinese New Year greetings, wishes and sayings. Some are popular. Some are formal. Some are short. Some are long, formal, traditional and a bit over the top.

A short popular phrase that many are familiar with is "Gung Hey Fat Choy". Oddly enough, this doesn’t actually mean "Happy New year". Instead, these Cantonese words mean "Happiness Prosperity "; in Mandarin, it’d be "Gong Xi Fa Cai".

But people generally understand it to symbolically mean "Happy New Year" anyway.

In reality, there’s only a few common & popular Chinese New Year phrases that you need to know and we’ve just looked at one already. But to take it a step further, we’re going to a bit of a deep-dive and give you more options and better understanding.

Take note that since the focus is on Mandarin (not going into the popular dialect phrases – this would get much too long!), and the Pinyin is listed, there will not be the typical roll-over for Mandarin/Cantonese pop-up as found elsewhere on the site.

Choosing How to Say Happy New Year

Picking the right way to express your wishes is about context and desired impression.

When wishing holiday / seasons greetings to folks, you can be formal or informal. Consider these English examples:

  • "Happy New Year!"
  • "Hope this one’s better than the last!"
  • "I wish you Happiness, Prosperity and Longevity."
  • "Rich blessings for health and longevity is my special wish for you in the coming year."
  • "May wealth rise for you this year."

Are you wanting to just shout or say a friendly "Happy New Year"? Writing a formal email to a boss or client? Creating marketing collateral? Sending a holiday card to friends and family?

Who really ever says "Wishing you…" in conversation?

But then think about this scenario: You’re the teacher of a Kung Fu school and are giving a martial arts demonstration or Lion Dance in front of a crowd. Deciding on what tone you want to set, impression you want to give, etc., will help you choose the type of greeting to use. We’re all friends here vs. esteemed public, we’d like to wish you…

Formal vs. Informal — the Chinese Way

Casually, just using the three-, or more often, four-word, greeting will work. "Happy New Year " would be the obvious example.

Sometimes, however, you might want to say "Wishing you…" and then whatever you’re wishing them. It might be just "Happy New Year", but it might also be something more creative, meaningful, symbolic or elaborate and poetic, such as "happiness and prosperity" or "a meteoric rise in business".

You may also see many of the formal words & phrases written in gold or black characters on red paper around Chinese homes and businesses. The details of these items we’ll cover in a future article, but it’s good to know that it’s all related.

So, if you’d like to get a wee-bit formal and say "Wishing you…", then it’s one of these, depending on who you’re saying it to:

Wishing You…
CharactersMandarinMeaning
祝 你Zhù Nǐ…Wish(ing) You…
祝 您Zhù Nín…Wish(ing) You (to an elder, boss, estemeed stranger – respectful)…

The great thing about "Wishing You…" is that by adding just those two words to many of the phrases below, you’ve magically added a touch of class to your phrase.

Happy New Year – Chinese Poetics

The Chinese language can get all poetic and confusing at times. Consider this New Year Greeting: 吉 星 高 照 Jí Xīng Gāo Zhào. Literally, it translates as "Lucky Star High Shines", which makes no sense at all. However, what it really means is "Fortune Will Smile [on you]".

So in the table(s) below, the "Meaning" will be what it really means to people — not the direct character translation.

Chinese New Year Greetings, Sayings and Wishes

The short, easy, common and popular ones — the ones you need to know for sure are at the top, with a variety of choices following. And remember: "Wishing You" is optional for some, only makes sense with some and doesn’t with others. Read the meanings & it should be a clear choice.

Short Common & Popular Greetings
CharactersMandarinMeaning
新 年 快 樂Xīn Nián Kuài LèHappy New Year
恭 喜 發 財Gōng Xǐ Fā CáiHappiness Prosperity (Happy New Year)
新 年 好Xīn Nián HǎoGood New Year
過 年 好Guò Nián HǎoPass the New Year well
新 年 進 歩Xīn Nián Jìn BùNew Year Progress
陽 光 燦 爛Yǎng Guāng Càn LànSunshine around you
喜 洋 洋Xí Yǎng YǎngVast Enjoyment, Boundless Joy, Great Happiness, etc.
財 源 廣 進Cái Yuán Guǎng JìnEnter broadly wealth’s source / Wealth will be plentiful
年 年 有 余Nián Nián Yǒu YúSurplus year-after-year / Prosperity every year
吉 星 高 照Jí Xīng Gāo ZhàoFortune will Smile on you (lucky star high shines)
吉 祥 如 意Jí Xiáng Rú YìGood Fortune according to your Wishes
福 祿 壽Fú Lù ShòuHappiness Prosperity Longevity
恭 賀 新 禧Gōng Hè Xīn XǐHappy New Year
祝 賀 佳 節Zhù Hè Jiā JiéCompliments of the Season / Holiday
龍 馬 精 神Lóng Mǎ Jīng ShénSpirit of Dragon & Horse / Vitality & Youth / Vigorous Spirit
身 體 健 康Shēn Tǐ Jiàn KāngHave Good Health
精 靈 活 潑Jīng Líng Huó PōBright & Lively Spirit (Only for children under age 10 to be active & mentally astute
步 步 高 陞Bù Bù Gāo ShēngStep by Step on the Up & Up
生 意 興 隆Shēng Yì Xīng LóngProsperous Business
萬 事 如 意Wàn Shì Rú YìEverything go as Intended
工 作 順 利Gōng Zuò Shùn LìWork Go Smoothly
事 業 有 成Shì Yè Yǒu ChéngProfessional Success
平 步 青 云Píng Bù Qīng YúnMeteoric Rise (of a career, social position, etc.)
馬 到 成 功Mǎ Dào Chéng GōngAchieve Success
闔 家 歡 樂Hé Jiā Huān LèWhole Family Happiness
招 財 進 寶Zhāo Cái Jìn BǎoUshering in Wealth & Prosperity
歲 歲 平 安Suì Suì Píng ānPeace throughout the Years
除 舊 佈 新Chú Jiù Bù XīnOut with the Old In with the New
和 氣 生 財Hé Qì Shēng CáiHarmony brings Wealth
心 想 事 成Xīn Xiǎng Shì ChéngMay your Dreams come True
升 官 發 財Shēng Guān Fā CáiTo be Promoted & gain Wealth
財 運 亨 通Cái Yùn Hēng TōngOverwhelmingly Fortunate in money-making
多 福 多 壽Duō Fú Duō ShòuMuch Luck Much Longevity (Live long and prosper)
健 康 長 壽Jiàn Kāng Cháng ShòuGood Health & Longevity
隹 洋 樓, 喝 洋 酒Zhù Yǎng Lǒu, Hē Yǎng JiǔForeign Villas & Foreign Wines (Zhu/Wishing is included here, due to it being popular rhyming phrase as is)

A Bit Much…

We’ve covered quite a few short Mandarin phrases that can be used in a variety of contexts.

Many of these Chinese words & phrases can be combined in different ways to create more robust New Year wishes — many of them merely being ways to say the same thing different ways.

Let’s look at some full-on sentence examples.

  • 恭 賀 新 禧,祝 身 體 健 康、事 業 發 達.
    Gōng Hè Xīn Xǐ, Zhù Shēn Tǐ Jiàn Kāng, Shì Yè Fā Dá.
    Happy New Year, I wish you good health and career development.
  • 恭 祝 健 康、幸 運,新 年 快 樂.
    Gōng Zhù Jiàn Kāng, Xìng Yùn, Xīn Nián Kuài Lè.
    Wishing you Health and Luck in the Happy New Year.
  • 祝 來 年 好 運,並 取 得 更 大 的 成 就.
    Zhù Lái Nián Hǎo Yùn, Bìng Qǔ Dé Gèng Dà de Chéng Jiù.
    Good luck in the coming year, and make great achievements.
  • 謹 祝 新 年 快 樂 幸 福,大 吉 大 利.
    Jǐn Zhù Xīn Nián Kuài Lè Xìng Fú, Dà Jí Dà Lì.
    I hope you have a most happy and prosperous New Year.
  • 願 新 年 為 你 帶 來 快 樂,友 愛 和 寧 靜.
    Yuàn Xīn Nián Wèi Nǐ Dài Lái Kuài Lè, Yǒu ài Hé Níng Jìng.
    May the coming New Year bring you joy, love and peace.
  • 願 快 樂 幸 福 永 伴 你 左 右.
    Yuàn Kuài Lè Xìng Fú Yǒng Bàn Nǐ Zuǒ Yòu.
    May the joy and happiness be around you today and always.
  • 祝 好 運、健 康、佳 肴 伴 你 度 過 一 個 快 樂 新 年.
    Zhù Hǎo Yùn, Jiàn Kāng, Jiā Yáo Bàn Nǐ Dù Guò Yī Gè Kuài Lè Xīn Nián.
    Wishing you good luck, health, and cheer throughout a Happy New Year.
  • 請 接 受 我 節 日 的 祝 賀.
    Qǐng Jiē Shòu Wǒ Ji ér De Zhù Hè.
    Please accept my Season’s Greetings.

And of course, there’s many more possibilities. Other words, phrases and metaphors may be mixed in. Formal and Casual titles, nicknames, archaic terms, double entendres, homophomes, synonyms, honorifics and other things may add to the combinations as well.

As in martial arts, the actual application of properly wishing someone a "Happy New Year" will depend on the context.

Don’t get lost in choice. As mentioned, you really only need to know the first few Greetings. The rest of them simply allow you to take it to the next level, once you’re ready.

So this next Chinese New Year, go out there and wish someone well.

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