Many of us will soon be dressing up in red and making our rounds to our relatives’ homes in our annual Chinese New Year bai nian visits. For the unmarried, that means plenty of ang baos (yay!), and for everyone else, it’s time to stuff ourselves silly with pineapple tarts and bak kwa.
Don’t just utter “happy new year” in English and then run off with your red packets, though. Bring back some form of tradition this Lunar New Year, and impress everyone – especially your potential in-laws – by greeting them using proper Chinese phrases.
Here are some easy-to-remember CNY greetings for different groups of people you’ll encounter during this festive season – from your grandparents to your boss and younger cousins.
These fall under level 1 of Chinese New Year greetings, i.e. the most basic, commonly-heard ones that everyone who celebrates CNY and/or studied Mandarin in school should know. Can’t go wrong with these, even if you’re one of those jiak kentang people who claim their command of the language is atrocious.
As most of us know, this means “happy new year”. A foolproof greeting to rely on when the other more complicated ones slip your mind or twist your tongue.
Image credit: @tbgsoulmates
This has nothing to do with fish. “余” means abundance, so this means you’re wishing someone surplus – usually a surplus of money. But it sounds phonetically similar to “fish” in Mandarin, hence fish are a common motif of luck you see during Chinese New Year.
This also explains why there’s salmon in yu sheng – it’s a symbol of prosperity.
Another must-know, used to wish wealth upon another person.
Add “紅包拿來” (hong bao na lai – bring over the red packets) at the end to create a fun rhyme, but with the possible risk of your ah mah scolding you.
This basically means “good luck”. If it’s too much of a mouthful for you, it can also be shortened to 吉利.
“万事” translates to “10,000 matters” – which is pretty much “everything”. “如意” can be translated to “as one desires”, or “to have your wishes fulfilled”.
In saying this phrase, you’re hoping for someone’s every wish and desire to be granted. *cue Genie in a Bottle by Christina Aguilera*
Generally, you’d want to wish your grandfolks and other elders a long, healthy life as they age.
To have peace in every year of one’s life. Because everyone wants to live drama-free.
This literally translates to “spirit of the dragon and horse”, which relates to strength and vitality even in old age, since horses and dragons are thought to possess such qualities.
Say this to ah mah or ah gong and you’ll be a winner in their books.
A wish for happiness for the whole family.
This greeting is especially suitable for married couples with new additions to the family, or those with multiple offspring.
“百岁” means “a hundred years old”, which is a pretty great feat in human years. In saying this, you’re essentially wishing your elders a super long life.
To be happy and smile often. 😊
When it comes to the corporate world, Chinese New Year greetings often revolve around money, success, and promotions.
“风顺” means smooth winds, so the complete phrase can be taken as, “may everything be smooth-sailing”.
It can be used generically to bid someone an easy, chill life, or used to wish business associates smoothness in their work-related dealings.
Conjuring images of opulence and lavishness, this means “gold and jade filling the halls”.
Here’s to rolling in riches! $$$$$
Image credit: @jellyfied
Another phrase that brings the idea of rolling in cash, this is directly translated as “billowing money”.
Crazy Rich Asians life, where are ya???
“To have a meteoric rise”.
This is often related to career progression and promotions – perfect for your relative who has just started their first job or new career and is shooting for the stars.
To wish success upon a newly-opened business, for those who have just kickstarted their own ventures.
CNY greetings for kids and teenagers are kept relatively simple as they’re unlikely to understand complex cheng yu (4-character Chinese phrases). Besides, they’re usually more interested in receiving your moolah than anything. But anyhoo, you’ll still want to wish them well – especially when it comes to their studies.
If you know a kid who needs to transform their Cs into As, use this to wish them academic progress and improvement.
Similar to the previous, this phrase relates to academic success.
Not everything is about grades, though. You want your young niece or nephew to grow up bright, active, and healthy, so don’t leave this one out.
Have a cousin who’s bringing his or her new bae over for your reunion dinner? Say this to wish them the best of luck and happiness in their relationship.
“May all your dreams come true” – this will be especially appreciated by an adolescent relative who is at the crossroads of life.
Image credit: Kreta Ayer CC
2020 is the year of the rat in the Chinese zodiac, so go one step further and use some timely rat-themed ones such as “鼠年吉祥” (shu nian ji xiang) or “鼠年行大运” (shu nian xing da yun). Both mean “good luck in the year of the rat”, and the “鼠” can be interchanged with any other animal for future years.
If you’re slightly more proficient in the language, try a more levelled-up version with a mouse-related pun. “鼠”, the Chinese word for rat, sounds similar to “数”, the word for “count”. So base your greetings on that, with mention of counting riches or blessings.
An example: “鼠年数金数不完” (shu nian shu jin shu bu wan) – which loosely translates to, may you have uncountable riches in the year of the rat.
Even if you can’t memorise every single one of these Chinese New Year wishes, it’ll still be useful to remember at least one from each section so you’ll have something relevant up your sleeve for every person you encounter – be it your boss, parents’ friends, or young cousins who are still in school.
Who knows, you might even score extra points and earn more red packets this way.
Whether to train your kid or simply to beat the heat, find out where to…
Despite the stereotypes associated with being an anime fan, I’ve come to accept that this…
My breastfeeding journey as a working mother of 2 Even before my first daughter was…
Here are six ways to safely get back at these pesky birds and prevent them from coming…
Bookmark these rustic hotels and resorts in Sabah for when travel borders reopen to get…
While 2021’s festivities are scaled-down, visit these micro bazaars where you can snag all your…