Listen to Podcast | Cantonese: How Do You Say “Happy New Year”

New Words   
Chinese New Year Eve – 年卅晚(年三十晚) – nin sa-ah mun 
New Year Eve – 除夕 – choei zek 
Red packets – 利是 – lay see 
Red – 红 – hong 
Happy New Year – 新年快樂(新年快乐) – san nin fai lok 
May all things go smoothly – 萬事如意(万事如意) – man si yu yee


Podcast Transcript | Cantonese: How Do You Say “Happy New Year”

Hey there, this is Eugene from LearnDialect.sg. Wow, Chinese New Year is just round the corner! This is the single most important festival for Chinese all around the world and it signifies a time for family members to gather as well as a new beginning. From having reunion dinners to giving red packets, Chinese people practice multiple cultural traditions which we will explore some on today’s Cantonese – How Do You Say podcast.  Are you excited to find out? Let’s go!  

In the few weeks leading up to Chinese New Year, prices of food will start to increase. This is especially so for food items that symbolize prosperity and wealth, for example, abalone. Chinese families typically stock up food items for reunion dinner on Chinese New Year eve. This day is known as “年卅晚” if the last lunar month prior to Chinese New Year has 30 days. Alternatively, Cantonese speakers also refer to this day as 除夕 but it may cause confusion as the same term is used for New Year’s Eve which is on 31st December. 

On the first day of Chinese New Year, you will see Chinese families, dressed typically in red, visiting extended family members. Now, what are some festive greetings that we can use?  

Well, you cannot miss this one as it is more commonly heard in Singapore – 新年快樂. “新年快樂” means “Happy New Year”. “新年” refers to “new year” while “快樂” refers to “happy”.  

Another popular greeting is 萬事如意. “萬” means “10 thousand”, “事” means “matters” and “如意” means “as you wish”. As such, putting them together, if you greet people with “萬事如意”, it means that you hope all things will go smoothly for them! 

In fact, you can put these 2 greetings together -新年快樂,萬事如意. Happy New Year and I hope everything goes on well for you!  

Now, to celebrate the festive spirit of giving as well as to start the new year with tons of wealth, elders will then give lucky money – in the form of red packets – to the younger generation. Cantonese people call these red packets – “利是” – which is a different from Hokkiens or Teochew. However, red or “红” in Cantonese, is believed by the Chinese to bring about good luck and ward off evil spirits. Have you received any 利是 so far?  

To our Chinese listeners, what other traditions do your family practice during Chinese New Year? To our non-Chinese listeners, what do you think of the Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore?  

Thank you for listening in to How Do You Say on LearnDialect.sg. I would also like to wish all our listeners 新年快樂,萬事如意. Cheers to a prosperous year ahead!


Our Philosophy for Learning Cantonese in Singapore

At LearnDialect.sg, we want to make learning Cantonese fun, easy and practical for daily conversations in Singapore. As such, rather than figuring out which of the 10 or more Cantonese romanization system to use (e.g. JyutpingYale or Cantonese Pinyin etc.), we encourage you to form your own phonics, so that you make an association with these Cantonese words in the quickest way possible. To illustrate, the romanization of the English word, “eat”, is “Sik” using Jyutping and “Sihk” using Yale. However, in our “Have You Eaten?” podcast transcript, you’ll find that we use “sek”, which we think relates to us better. That said, you may use other romanization (e.g “sake”, “xig”, etc), as long as it helps you to make sense of what you hear.