【Learn Chinese】The Chinese Spring Festival

Chinese New Year is the most important festival in Chinese culture. In Chinese it is called 春节 (chūn jié) which literally translates to “Spring Festival”. It is celebrated on the new moon of the first month according to the lunar calendar and is a time for family reunions and scrumptious feasts.
Here is everything you need to learn about traditions and how to wish others a happy new year in Chinese so that you can also partake in Chinese New Year festivities wherever you are in the world.
How Long Is Chinese New Year?
Chinese New Year traditionally lasts from the first day to the 15th day of the New Year (which is the Lantern Festival), but the demands of modern life mean that most people don’t get such an extended holiday. Still, the first five days of the New Year are an official holiday.
Home Decor
A chance to leave the problems of the previous year behind, it is important to start the New Year fresh. This means cleaning up the house and buying new clothes. Homes are decorated with red paper banners which have auspicious couplets written on them. These are hung around doorways and are intended to bring luck to the household for the coming year.
Red is an important color in Chinese culture, symbolizing prosperity. Many people will wear red clothing during the New Year celebrations, and houses will have many red decorations such as Chinese knotwork.
Red Envelopes
Red envelopes 红包 (hóng bāo) are given to children and unmarried adults. Married couples also give red envelopes to their parents.
The envelopes contain money. The money must be in new bills, and the total amount must be an even number. Certain numbers (such as four) are bad luck, so the total amount should not be one of these unlucky numbers. “Four” is a homonym for “death”, so a red envelope should never contain $4, $40, or $400.
Evil spirits are said to be driven away by loud noise, so Chinese New Year is a very loud celebration. Long strings of firecrackers are set off throughout the holiday, and there are many displays of fireworks lighting up the evening skies.
Chinese Zodiac
The Chinese zodiac cycles every 12 years, and each lunar year is named after an animal. For example:
Tiger: February 1, 2022 - February 19, 2023
Rabbit: February 20, 2023 - February 8, 2024
Dragon: February 10, 2024 - January 28, 2025
Snake: January 29, 2025 - February 16, 2026
Horse: February 17, 2026 - February 5, 2027
Sheep: February 6, 2027 - January 25, 2028
Monkey: January 26, 2028 - February 12, 2029
How to Say Happy New Year in Mandarin Chinese
There are many saying and greeting associated with the Chinese New Year. Family members, friends, and neighbors greet each other with congratulations and wishes for prosperity. The most common greeting is 新年快乐 (xīn Nián Kuài Lè); this phrase directly translates to “Happy New Year.” Another common greeting is 恭喜发财 (Gōng Xǐ Fā Cái), which means "Best wishes, wishing you prosperity and wealth." The phrase can also colloquially be shortened to just 恭喜 (gōng xǐ).
Here is a list of Mandarin greetings and other phrases that are heard during the Chinese New Year.
恭喜发财 (gōng xǐ fā cái) = Congratulations and Prosperity
新年快乐 (xīn nián kuài lè) = Happy New Year
过年 (guò nián) = Chinese New Year
年年有馀 (nián nián yǒu yú) = Wishing you prosperity every year.
放鞭炮 (fàng biān pào) = set off firecrackers
年夜饭 (nián yè fàn) = New Year’s Eve family dinner
除旧布新 (chú jiù bù xīn) = Relace the old with the new (proverb)
拜年 (bài nián) = pay a New Year’s visit
红包 (hóng bāo) = Red Envelope
压岁钱 (yā suì qián) = money in the red envelope
恭贺新禧 (gōng hè xīn xǐ) = Happy New Year
___年行大运 (___ nián xíng dà yùn) = Good luck for the year of the ____.
贴春联 (tiē chūn lián) = red banners
办年货 (bàn nián huò) = New Year shopping