1. Travel
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Chinese New Year wishes and cards

How to say happy Chinese New Year


Chinese New Year decorations in Old Town
Holger Leue/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

Tongue tied over Chinese New Year? Wondering what the CNY equivalent of Merry Christmas (or should that be Happy Holidays is?) look no further. Below we look at the greetings to use and how to fill out a Chinese New Year greeting card.

Which Chinese New Year wish should it be?

If you’re planning on spreading happy Chinese new year wishes to neighbours or colleagues the first thing to do is understand where they are from and what language they speak. The written language of China is Chinese but unlike English and other European languages, the spoken languages are largely unrelated to the written characters.

The official spoken language of China is mandarin and this is used by most people from mainland China. But, while mandarin is the most widely spoken Chinese language, in overseas Chinese communities Cantonese remains more popular. This is the language of southern China, Hong Kong and Macau – the original Chinese immigrants

In Mandarin the common way to express Chinese New year wishes is Gong xi fa cai.  It means congratulations and prosperity for the year head. You can also say Xin nian kuai le, which simply means happy new year.

In Cantonese, the most common Chinese New Year wish is Gong hey fat choy, which means the same, congratulations and prosperity for the year ahead.

The two languages are not usually mutually intelligible, so mandarin speakers will not understand Cantonese and vice versa. Despite this, the two ways of expressing Chinese New Year wishes are so close and the sayings so ubiquitous that speakers of either language will recognise the phrase in either language  

How to write a Chinese New Year card?

While the pronunciation for congratulations and prosperity for the year ahead are different, the written characters are the same.  They are 恭喜發財.

2014 is the Chinese year of the horse so if you want to show off you can wish your friends 马年大吉your means lucky year of the horse.

Where to write your greeting?

(Remember, Chinese writing is from the top to down, rather than left to right. )

Unlike a western greeting card, he name of the person you are addressing the card too should be placed in the top right corner of the card.

Then, like on a Christmas card or a birthday car, your main greeting or wish (like those above) should be written in the centre of the card. Keep the writing to the centre, don’t go to the bottom of the card – if you need a second line write top to bottom and put the second line to the left of the first one.

Finally, you need to sign off your name at the bottom left corner of the card. If you have a Chinese translation of your name , use that, if not, just use the roman alphabet characters. Your signature should be slightly smaller than the size of the person’s name you are addressing the card too – this shows deference to them. Some people like to date their card as well.

Where to buy a Chinese New Year card?

Like the holiday itself, Chinese New Year cards are increasingly popular and can be found in card shops in many major cities and towns. Certainly, if you live near a Chinatown there will be many shops selling the typical red and gold greeting card.

Hallmark now sell a limited number of Chinese New Year cards through their website, in either English or Chinese, although many have been styled more like western greeting cards than the typical card you’ll find in China.

You can, alternatively consider sending an e-card. A number of online companies offer a wide range of Chinese New Year e-cards for Chinese New Year, both paid and free.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.