Chinese New Year Greetings
If you grew up watching Channel 8 dramas but only reading the subtitles, or having to mentally prepare when you order food from a Chinese hawker stall, you probably need this guide to Chinese New Year greetings. I struggled with Mandarin my entire life as I grew up in an English-speaking household and studied at a mission school where most of us were illiterate in our mother tongue. It’s been many years since I’ve had to read or write in Mandarin, and the lack of practice has definitely caused my proficiency to regress to being worse than a toddler’s.
Whenever Chinese New Year rolls around, I’m forced to learn the greetings. Else, no ang bao for me. Here are some greetings you should always remember.
Gōng xǐ fā cái (恭喜发财)
Meaning: Wishing you wealth and prosperity!
This is a no-brainer and the most infamous greeting. Do not forget it. During Chinese New Year, you’ll be saying this greeting mostly to your elders. If you’re wishing them wealth and prosperity you might end up getting a bigger and thicker ang bao the following year; size does matter.
Dà jí dà lì (大吉大利)
Meaning: Lots of luck and profit
This might sound like a dirty joke but I assure you, it definitely isn’t. Many traditions and superstitions during this festive period have to do with “acquiring” or ensuring that you have more luck. So wish your elders to have more luck, they might win the lottery and you might get a bonus ang bao. Who knows, they might even win the grand TOTO Chinese New Year draw and make you a millionaire.
Shēn tǐ jiàn kāng (身体健康)
Meaning: Good health
If you ever had formal Chinese lessons, you won’t get this wrong. It’s definitely a chore to write or read, but at the very least you’d be able to understand it. This greeting is more of a formality; wishing your elders to have good health is very important. Since we’ve just come out of a pandemic, health is more important than ever.
Bù bù gāo shēng (步步高升)
Meaning: Step-by-step to a higher promotion or rise steadily
When I first heard this greeting, I automatically assumed it was bù (不) aka “no”. That would be the complete opposite of this greeting’s meaning.
This greeting is for your elders who are still in the workforce, looking for a promotion with a higher salary. If they get a promotion, they get a better salary, they can give you more during the next Chinese New year. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.
Tù nián xíng dà yùn (兔年行大运)
Meaning: Good luck in the year of the rabbit.
This is new to me. It applies specifically to this year, so be sure to impress your relatives who think you’re illiterate.
Guide to Chinese New Greetings
There are a ton of Chinese New Year greetings, but these are the ones I’m definitely going to use this year. If you have problems pronouncing them, please practise in order to not embarrass yourself. Don’t forget to bring your oranges, and don’t wear inauspicious colours! Have a happy Chinese New Year everyone.
What are your memorable Chinese New Year stories? Tell us below!