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Happy New Year in Chinese: Language, Culture, and Celebration 2018

新年快乐 (xīnnián kuàilè)。

That’s how to say Happy New Year in Chinese. This year, Chinese New Year 2018 – also known as Spring Festival (春节 chūnjié) - falls on Friday, February 16. That’s coming up pretty soon. We’ve got everything you need to know, from some important language points, to what you can expect, and more.

Chinese Zodiac Dog

If It’s Your Zodiac, Beware

Another year, another Zodiac. For the Chinese New Year 2018, it’s the turn of the loyal dog. Symbolic of loyalty and honesty, 狗年 (gǒu nián) - the year of the dog - is an important year in the zodiac, seen by many as a year in which trust and loyalty will prevail.

However, that doesn’t mean that things are going to be all cherries and cake for 本命年 (běnmìngnián). That’s because 本命年 are those to whom this particular year of the Zodiac belongs. 本命年 are those who can say:

我属狗 (wǒ shǔ gǒu)
My Zodiac is the dog.

So why is that a bad thing? Well, one of the most interesting facts about Chinese New Year is that just because its your year, doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a good one for you. In fact, it means quite the opposite. 本命年 can look forward to a bumpy and uncertain road ahead.

A good way of getting around this is by wearing red. Anything is ok, even a small bracelet or pendant. Undergarments seem to be a favorite though.

Chinese Hongbao

Red Packets Are Important

Every year at Spring Festival, the people of China exchange gifts. Unlike the gifts you might find under a Christmas tree though, those in China are almost exclusively red and filled with money. 红包 (hóngbāo), or Red Packets, are often given during special occasions in China, and the Chinse New Year is one such occasion.

Traditionally, younger members of the family would ask older members of the family for Red Packets by using the phrase 恭喜发财 (gōngxǐ fācái), which means to wish wealth upon a person. Alternatively, if they were to ask an even older person for a Red Packet, they might use the phrase 身体健康 (shēntǐ jiànkāng), meaning best wishes for a person’s body and health.

In recently years though, Red Packets have started to make their way onto mobiles. Platforms like WeChat and AliPay have become mainstream methods for transferring money to loved one and friends.

Light the Sky with Fireworks

烟花 (Yānhuā), or fireworks, are a vital part of the Chinese Spring Festival. If you’re anywhere near a Chinese celebration for Chinese New Year 2018, then you’re going to be seeing the night through with a bang.

This is especially important at midnight, when the 爆竹 (bàozhú) is launched. This special, midnight firework is based on the first Bamboo fireworks made in China and is considered an important weapon in any mystical arsenal. It's especially good at scaring away demons and ghosts from your property. So get firing!

Chinese New Year Food

Food, Food, Food

Without Food, New Years wouldn’t be the same. Whilst you’re saying happy New Year in Chinese, you’ll probably be doing it over the course of a huge feast, packed with all the best Chinese food from the local area.

For this reason, depending on where in China you celebrate Spring Festival, the food will take on different forms. For instance, lots of northern areas have a tradition of making and eating dumplings.

In southern China, however, more salty and soupy dishes are common fare. 汤圆 (tāngyuán) is a common favorite. They are sometimes packed with meat, but a lot of the time come with a sweet, black sesame filling.

Regardless of what people are eating, there is almost always 年年有余 (nián nián yǒuyú), the years leftovers. Just like a Thanksgiving turkey, these should last for quite some time – and they continue to taste great!

Chinese New Year Decoration

Decorations Are a Part of It

Decorations form an integral part of the new year celebrations and are usually put up on Spring Festival Eve.

Two of the most common decorations include the 贴对联 (tiē duìlián). Also known as red couplets, these are hung on either side of doorways and are decorated with wishes for the coming year. Also used are 挂灯笼 (guà dēnglóng) - Hanging lanterns - which also hold wishes for the year to come.

Spring Festival Travel(春运)

Spring Festival is one of the largest migrations of people on the planet. 3.7 billion trips are estimated to be made over a 40-day period. For most of those people, those trips are back to their hometown to visit their family, pay respects to their ancestors, and, of course, say happy New Year in Chinese.

If you happen to have a group of Chinese friends to spend the festival with, now is the perfect time to work on improving your listening skills just that extra bit

Happy New Year in Chinese

Chinese Dragon Dance

The dragon is an important creature in Chinese Tradition, representing leadership, wisdom, power, and wealth. 舞龙 (wǔ lóng) is the dragon dance meant to honor this sacred creature. There are actually several different versions of the dragon dance depending on what area of China it is being performed in.

Best Chinese Slang of 2017

How to Say Happy New Year in Chinese Yourself

Speechling has you covered with the Speechling freestyle mode. Simply type anything you want (like "Happy New Year" in Chinese-"新年快乐") and record your voice, and your coach will then be able to offer you corrections; making sure that your pronunciation is perfect. It doesn't just have to be for Chinese New Year phrases, it can be for anything. Try it now by logging in to your account, heading to your skill tree and selecting Freestyle Mode (Say Anything).

If you’re able to find a group of Chinese Mandarin speakers for Chinese New Year 2018 though, try speaking Chinese with them. Just make sure that you’re being polite.

Happy Chinese New Year 2018!

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Robert Bailey

Robert Bailey

Having lived in China for three years - and studied the language for just as long - I would like to think I've picked up a few things along the way. I'll let you decide.

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