– By 赵丹 Dan
In China, celebrating the Chinese New Year (农历新年 nóng lì xīn nián), also called the Spring Festival (春节 chūnjié), is a bigger deal than celebrating the (Gregorian calendar) New Year. The date of the Chinese New Year is different every year, for 2022 it’s Tuesday, 1 February. When we celebrate it, we hang up banners, have dinner, and sing songs. Let’s look at some Chinese New Year songs here, explaining the Mandarin language inside of them.
Read also our article on Chinese songs for learning Chinese
Origins of Chinese New Year
The monster Nian would come ashore and destroy buildings or attack people. It was only when people started to light fireworks and hang up red banners, that Nian was scared. Nian’s Chinese name 年(Nián) and literally means ‘year’. Kinda poetic when you think about it, too. Time eats people.
February 1st, 2022, the year of the Tiger starts (虎年Hǔ nián). The Chinese zodiac consists of 12 animals in a sequence, and each year the next animal comes. The sequence is: Mouse/rat, ox/cow, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat/sheep, monkey, rooster/chicken, dog, pig. So the year after the year of the tiger, will come the year of the rabbit (兔年tùnián).
Traditions during the Chinese New Year
The new year starts on the first moon (新月 xīn yuè) of the new year, according to the Rural Calendar (农历 Nónglì). New Year’s Day is called 大年初一 dànián chūyī), and the Day After New Year’s is called 初二, chūèr.
Young Chinese people often live far away from their hometown and during Chinese New Year, the whole country has a holiday for one week. During this week, many Chinese people will travel back to their families to reunite. The Chinese New Year, as well as the Mid-Autumn Festival, may be the only possibilities for them to travel home. This is called 拜年bài nián (Pay a New Year Visit).
At home, there are firecrackers 鞭炮 (biān pào), fireworks (烟花Yānhuā) unless it’s in a big city, now that firework is no longer allowed. There’s also giving red envelops (红包Hóngbāo) with money to kids, hanging red banners (春联Chūnlián). We’ll also watch the New Year Gala (看春晚kàn Chūnwǎn), so that we ‘守岁shǒusuì’ (Stay up late for the New Year). Plus eating. Lots of eating. Dumplings (饺子 jiǎozi) are a popular dish for the 年夜饭 niányèfàn (New Year’s Eve dinner), as well as fish, because 鱼 yú (fish) sounds like 余 yú (surplus).
Every twelfth year is called a 本命年 (Běnmìngnián). There’s no real English word for this, it just means you completed another circle of the 12 zodiacs. Contrary to what you may expect, your 本命年 spells bad luck. So similar to warding of Nian, if it’s your 本命年, you’re recommended to wear clothes, underwear and socks.
This is one of the most classic Chinese New Year songs. Key words or sentences in it:
- 恭喜你发财 Gōngxǐ nǐ fācái(Wish you prosperity and wealth )
- 恭喜你精彩 Gōngxǐ nǐ jīngcǎi (Wish you prosperity and wealth )
- 最好的请过来 zuìhǎo de qǐng guòlai(All the best things please come.)
- 不好的请走开 Bùhǎo de qǐng zǒukāi (All the best things please come.)
- 礼多人不怪 Lǐduō rén búguài (Nobody would be unhappy with a lot of gifts.)
Teresa Teng – 恭喜恭喜 Congrats congrats (Gōngxǐ Gōngxǐ)
Teresa Teng (邓丽君) is “Asia’s eternal queen of pop”, and also has this Chinese New Year song.
Little fox – 新年好 Happy new year (Xīnnián hǎo)
And lastly, a song because it’s soon the Year of the Tiger (Not technically a Chinese New Year song but yeah.)