There are multiple blessings and greetings for Chinese New Year. But there are variations even for the most basic “Happy New Year!”
The simplest is, of course, Happy New Year: 新年快乐 (xīn nián kuài lè)
China also contains many dialects, such as Cantonese, Shanghainese and the Beijing dialect. And those dialects don’t include the languages of China’s 55 ethnic minorities.
A European scholar once said that if every dialect regions became a separate country, this area would have more countries than Europe. Northerners and Southerners can rarely understand each other, even though the same written language is used. Other than Mandarin (standardized Chinese), the most well-known Chinese language is probably Cantonese. It’s more difficult for foreigners to learn. English isn’t a tonal language. Mandarin has 4 tones. And Cantonese has 9.
But if you wish to learn, “Happy New Year” in Cantonese is pronounced: san1 nin4 faai3 lok6!
- 春节快乐 (chūn jiē kuài lè)
Happy Spring Festival in Mandarin.
- ceon1 zit3 faai3 lok6!
Happy Spring Festival in Cantonese.
You can also say春节愉快 (chūn jiē yú kuài), which uses a more formal way to say “happy.” In Cantonese, it’s: ceon1 zit3 jyu4 faai3
In Cantonese-speaking regions, it’s more popular to say恭喜发财(gung1 hei2 faat3 coi4). This is a blessing for wealth and prosperity. The phrase is also used in other regions (Mandarin: gong xǐ fā cái). But the Cantonese like to say this in place of the usual “Happy New Year.”
Some more poetic and “advanced” variations of “Happy New Year”:
- 恭贺新禧 (gōng hè xīn xǐ)
Literal translation: respectful congratulations on the New Year.
- 新春志禧 (xīn chūn zhì xǐ)
Literal translation: to record the happiness from the new spring.
This is a major cultural festival in the Chinese community. During this time it is no uncommon to see almost all Chinese businesses close for several days, even in malls. The festival begins with a reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve that is traditionally attended by every member of the family.
The Lunar New Year is the time when spirits are appeased and offerings are made to the gods. During the joyous occasion, no member of a Chinese household is allowed to clean the house as spring cleaning is done during the last seven days of the old year. Brooms are stored away as the Chinese believe that sweeping the floor during the new year would mean sweeping away the good luck from the household.
The Chinese New Year celebration lasts for 15 days beginning from the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar. A visit to the temple to seek the blessings of the God of Prosperity and giving of ‘ang pow’ or red packets containing money by parents to their children or among relatives and well wishers are also the order of the day. This practice coupled with the giving away of mandarin oranges is intended as a symbol of prosperity and good luck for the recipients.
Open houses are also held during this happy celebration with lion dance performances as well. If you are in Kuala Lumpur at this time drop in at two major open houses held by two main political Chinese parties in Malaysia – the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and Parti Gerakan. You will get the chance to meet most of Malaysias’s top Chinese politicians and leaders.
And remember red is the colour of the day. Red is most auspicious because it symbolises luck and prosperity. Don’t wear black because it is usually associated with morning.