8 traditional Chinese New Year greetings to learn in 2023

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Also known as Lunar New Year (农历新年 nóng lì xīn nián) or Spring Festival ( 春节 chūn jié), Chinese New Year – the time to wish people wealth and good fortune – is nearly upon us.

While the world’s celebrations might still be a little subdued this year, we still know them for their abundance of colour, traditional lion dances, food and live music. 

But for Chinese people the 15-day-long festivities is also the most important time in the lunar calendar, and carries special significance for the year ahead.

This is because each new year is named after one of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig. 

Each animal carries a special meaning. 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit, the fourth animal in the 12-year cycle.

What personality traits are associated with people born in the Year of the Rabbit?

People born in the Year of the Rabbit (1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023) are said to be kind, gentle, and sensitive. They are often seen as refined, gracious, and artistic, and are known for their good taste and elegance. They are also said to be quiet and well-mannered, and are respected for their tact and diplomacy. In general, rabbits are thought to be lucky and auspicious animals in Chinese culture.

What popular Chinese New Year traditions should you know about?

Preparing Hóng Bāo (红包)

Chinese New Year customs vary across China, but you’re almost always guaranteed to see Hong Bao (red packets) around.

This tradition sees people stuffing red envelopes with cash to be exchanged at every meeting during the Chinese New Year. 

Now, there’s a couple of rules to remember: if you’re married, you must be the generous one and hand a little red packet over to others. 

But if you’re single, you’re eligible to receive them – so if you’re single and ready to mingle, your wallet might thank you for putting any serious hot dates on hold until the festivities are over!

One last thing: if a little kid comes up to you, all wide-eyed and cute, it’s your choice whether or not to part with your money (though arguably the most sporting thing to do just be to hand over the Hong Bao!).

Dining on the eve of the new year

Another custom across China is to be home for dinner before the new year arrives. This is an event you won’t want to miss, as the new year is usually celebrated with loads of traditional food, the exchanging of red packets, and even a bit of gambling!

As you watch the countdown on TV make sure you tune into the Spring Festival National Programme Chūn Wǎn (春晚). It’s the most watched show of the year!

And once the TV is turned off (and the gambling has calmed down), it’s normally time to crack out the 麻将 má jiàng Majong tiles. This is a popular Chinese game, played by four people at a time (although expect a lot of advice from others around the table)!

Wish friends & family wealth & good fortune with these 8 Chinese New Year greetings

These four-charater-long Chinese idioms are clever fellows: you can pair up these phrases to form longer Chinese New Year wishes. But whether you choose to say one or two at a time, all variations have a positive meaning behind them.

1. 新年快乐 Xīn nián kuài lè (Happy New Year) 

2. 恭喜发财 Gōng xǐ fā cái (Wishing you wealth and prosperity in Chinese), or Gong Hei Fa Choi (Happy New Year in Cantonese)

3. 财源滚滚 Cái yuán gǔn gǔn (May wealth come pouring in) 

4. 年年有余 Nián nián yǒu yú (May you have abundance every year)

5. 心想事成 Xīn xiǎng shì chéng (May all your wishes come true)

6. 万事如意 Wàn shì rú yì (May everything go as you wish)

So, that’s all from us. Make sure you’ve got your Lunar New Year wishes down, your red envelopes stuffed, the TV powered up and you’re ready to go!

新年快乐


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Emma was a French Language Expert at Busuu. Originally from London, U.K, Emma moved to Brighton to study Anthropology and Languages (French and Spanish) and later spent time living on the French overseas department, La Réunion. In her spare time she loves travel and culture, crochet, cooking and singing!