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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…
Characters Mandarin Meaning
你 = Nǐ = Nei5 = You, informal... More Zhù Nǐ… Wish(ing) You…
您 = Nín = Nei5 = You, formal... More 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
Characters Mandarin Meaning
新 年 快 樂 Xīn心 = Xīn = Sam1 = Heart, mind,... More Nián Kuài Lè Happy New Year
恭 喜 發 財 Gōng Xǐ Fā Cái Happiness Prosperity (Happy New Year)
新 年 好 = Hǎo = Sam1 = Good, well,... More Xīn心 = Xīn = Sam1 = Heart, mind,... More Nián Hǎo好 = Hǎo = Sam1 = Good, well,... More Good New Year
過 年 好 = Hǎo = Sam1 = Good, well,... More Guò Nián Hǎo好 = Hǎo = Sam1 = Good, well,... More Pass the New Year well
新 年 進 歩 Xīn心 = Xīn = Sam1 = Heart, mind,... More Nián Jìn 步 = Bù = Bou6 = Stance, step,... More New Year Progress
陽 光 燦 爛 Yǎng Guāng Càn Làn Sunshine around you
喜 洋 洋 Xí Yǎng Yǎng Vast Enjoyment, Boundless Joy, Great Happiness, etc.
財 源 廣 進 Cái Yuán Guǎng Jìn Enter broadly wealth’s source / Wealth will be plentiful
年 年 有 余 Nián Nián Yǒu Yú Surplus year-after-year / Prosperity every year
吉 星 高 照 Jí Xīng Gāo Zhào Fortune will Smile on you (lucky star high shines)
吉 祥 如 意 Jí Xiáng Rú Yì Good Fortune according to your Wishes
福 祿 壽 Fú Lù Shòu Happiness Prosperity Longevity
恭 賀 新 禧 Gōng Hè Xīn心 = Xīn = Sam1 = Heart, mind,... More Happy New Year
祝 賀 佳 節 Zhù Hè Jiā Jié Compliments of the Season / Holiday
龍 馬 精 神 Lóng Mǎ Jīng Shén Spirit of Dragon & Horse / Vitality & Youth / Vigorous Spirit
身 體 健 康 Shēn Tǐ Jiàn Kāng Have Good Health
精 靈 活 潑 Jīng Líng Huó Pō Bright & Lively Spirit (Only for children under age 10 to be active & mentally astute
步 = Bù = Bou6 = Stance, step,... More 步 = Bù = Bou6 = Stance, step,... More 高 陞 步 = Bù = Bou6 = Stance, step,... More 步 = Bù = Bou6 = Stance, step,... More Gāo Shēng Step by Step on the Up & Up
生 意 興 隆 Shēng Yì Xīng Lóng Prosperous Business
萬 事 如 意 Wàn Shì Rú Yì Everything go as Intended
工 作 順 利 Gōng Zuò Shùn Lì Work Go Smoothly
事 業 有 成 Shì Yè Yǒu Chéng Professional Success
步 = Bù = Bou6 = Stance, step,... More 青 云 Píng 步 = Bù = Bou6 = Stance, step,... More Qīng Yún Meteoric Rise (of a career, social position, etc.)
馬 到 成 功 Mǎ Dào Chéng Gōng Achieve Success
闔 家 歡 樂 Hé Jiā Huān Lè Whole Family Happiness
招 財 進 寶 Zhāo Cái Jìn Bǎo Ushering in Wealth & Prosperity
歲 歲 平 安 Suì Suì Píng ān Peace throughout the Years
除 舊 佈 新 Chú Jiù 步 = Bù = Bou6 = Stance, step,... More Xīn心 = Xīn = Sam1 = Heart, mind,... More Out with the Old In with the New
和 氣 生 財 Hé Qì Shēng Cái Harmony brings Wealth
心 = Xīn = Sam1 = Heart, mind,... More 想 事 成 Xīn心 = Xīn = Sam1 = Heart, mind,... More Xiǎng Shì Chéng May your Dreams come True
升 官 發 財 Shēng Guān Fā Cái To be Promoted & gain Wealth
財 運 亨 通 Cái Yùn Hēng Tōng Overwhelmingly Fortunate in money-making
多 福 多 壽 Duō Fú Duō Shòu Much Luck Much Longevity (Live long and prosper)
健 康 長 壽 Jiàn Kāng Cháng Shòu Good Health & Longevity
隹 洋 樓, 喝 洋 酒 Zhù Yǎng Lǒu, Hē Yǎng Jiǔ Foreign 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心 = Xīn = Sam1 = Heart, mind,... More 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心 = Xīn = Sam1 = Heart, mind,... More Nián Kuài Lè.
    Wishing you Health and Luck in the Happy New Year.
  • 祝 來 年 好 = Hǎo = Sam1 = Good, well,... More 運,並 取 得 更 大 的 成 就.
    Zhù Lái Nián Hǎo好 = Hǎo = Sam1 = Good, well,... More 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心 = Xīn = Sam1 = Heart, mind,... More 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 = Nǐ = Nei5 = You, informal... More 帶 來 快 樂,友 愛 和 寧 靜.
    Yuàn Xīn心 = Xīn = Sam1 = Heart, mind,... More Nián Wèi 你 = Nǐ = Nei5 = You, informal... More 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 = Nǐ = Nei5 = You, informal... More 左 右.
    Yuàn Kuài Lè Xìng Fú Yǒng Bàn 你 = Nǐ = Nei5 = You, informal... More Zuǒ Yòu.
    May the joy and happiness be around you today and always.
  • 好 = Hǎo = Sam1 = Good, well,... More 運、健 康、佳 肴 伴 你 = Nǐ = Nei5 = You, informal... More 度 過 一 個 快 樂 新 年.
    Zhù Hǎo好 = Hǎo = Sam1 = Good, well,... More Yùn, Jiàn Kāng, Jiā Yáo Bàn 你 = Nǐ = Nei5 = You, informal... More Dù Guò Yī Gè Kuài Lè Xīn心 = Xīn = Sam1 = Heart, mind,... More Nián.
    Wishing you good luck, health, and cheer throughout a Happy New Year.
  • 請 接 受 我 = Wǒ = Ngo5 = I, me,... More 節 日 的 祝 賀.
    Qǐng Jiē Shòu 我 = Wǒ = Ngo5 = I, me,... More 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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