Top 10 Chinese Vocabulary Words for Lunar New Year

The year of the horse gallops our way as the year of the snake slithers to an end!

There are all these customs: wearing red, eating dumplings and giving and receiving red envelopes.

Why wear red? Well, it brings good luck and wards off evil. That’s why the envelopes, decorations and signature color of Chinese New Year’s, weddings and other major events are red.

Why eat dumplings? It’s a tradition to eat dumplings because they resemble ancient Chinese currency. It’s lucky since the dumplings represent wealth and a prosperous future.

Why give or get red envelopes? Seems like luck being the reason is the trend. It’s lucky to give money in red envelopes.

So with all these customs, traditions and sayings, I’ve prepared you a Mandarin Chinese vocabulary list for this holiday.

Top 10 Mandarin Chinese Vocabulary Words for Lunar New Year

10. 饺子 (jiǎo zi): dumplings

It’s a tradition to eat dumplings during Chinese New Year’s.  Families will often make them from scratch.


wǒ méi yǒu chī guò jiǎo zi, hěn xiǎng cháng cháng tā de wèi dào

I have not eaten dumplings before, I really want to try its taste

9. 红包 (hóng bāo) red envelope

During Chinese New Year’s, weddings and birthdays, red envelopes will be given.  Usually parents, grandparents and other elders will give red envelopes to children and those that aren’t married.


kuài guò nián le, wǒ gěi nín fā gè hóng bāo

It’s almost New Year’s, I’ll give you a red envelope

8. 放鞭炮 (fàng biān pào): setting off firecrackers

The Chinese set off firecrackers because they’re suppose to scare away evil spirits. It’s a great and fun way to start off the new year.


shuō qǐ guò nián, rén men zì rán jiù huì xiǎng qǐ fàng biān pào

When speaking of New Year’s, people will automatically think of setting off firecrackers

7. 守夜 (shǒu yè): vigil; staying up until midnight/through the night

Similar to families that will stay up until midnight for Christmas (to open presents) or New Year’s as they celebrate out in Times Square, the Chinese will stay up through the night as well.


bàn yè, yī wèi yǐng lóu shǒu yè lǎo rén bào jǐng zhuā xiǎo tōu

In the middle of the night, an elderly man that stayed up late called the police to report a thief

6. 舞狮 (wǔ shī): lion dance

You’ve seen those lions dancing around and blinking their eyes at major parades. These lion dances are a major part of celebrating the New Year.


wǔ shī zì rán shì chūn jié lǐ zuì shòu rén xǐ’ ài de biǎo yǎn huó dòng

Lion dancing is naturally the New Year’s most adored performance and activity

Music video with Chinese vocabulary words for New Years

Check out this music video which has vocabulary words for Chinese New Year!

5. 拜年 (bài nián) say Happy New Year; pay a new year call

Often children will say Happy New Year and wish their elders wealth, prosperity and good health in return for a 红包.


tiān liàng jiù yào chū mén qù bài nián le

At dawn, we should leave to wish others a Happy New Year

4. 新年快乐 (xīn nián kuài lè): Happy New Year

A necessary phrase to learn for the occasion.


zhù nǐ xīn nián kuài lè

Wish you a Happy New Year

3. 生肖 (shēng xiào): zodiac

The Chinese zodiac have 12 different animals that change every year.  This year will be the year of the snake which will bring more steadfast progress.


shí èr shēng xiào, shì zhōng guó chuán tǒng wén huà de zhòng yào bù fèn

The twelve zodiac signs are a part of China’s culture and tradition

2. 回老家 (huí lǎo jiā): return to hometown

The Chinese will usually go back to their hometown where the elders (usually grandparents) are living and celebrate with their family there.


jīn nián shì wǒ zhǎng dà hòu dì yī cì huí lǎo jiā

This is the first year going back to my hometown since Ive grown up

1. 恭喜发财 (gōng xǐ fā cái): kung hei fat choi; wish you wealth

You’ve got to know this phrase no matter what end you’re on. If you’re on the receiving end  (getting the red envelope), learn it or you won’t get one. If you’re on the giving end, know it since it’d be embarrassing to not give it.


zuì cháng yòng de hè nián yǔ jiù shì gōng xǐ fā cái

The most commonly used New Year’s phrase is kung hei fat choi

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2 Responses to Top 10 Chinese Vocabulary Words for Lunar New Year

  1. Liz February 10, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    “zuì cháng yòng de hè nián yǔ jiù shì gōng xǐ fā cái

    The most commonly used New Year’s phrase is kung hei fat choi”

    Is kung hei fat choi Cantonese or Mandarin?

    • Christina February 11, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

      That would be Cantonese. I suppose it’s similar to how the vegetable “bok choy” comes from the Cantonese pronunciation.

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