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The Essential Guide to Christmas, Holiday, and New Year Greetings for Mandarin Chinese Learners by Good Characters

First Published: December 19, 2008. Updated: December 23, 2016.

 

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Happy New Year! How do you say and write all these in Mandarin Chinese? You’re about to know them all! Read on . . .

 

Merry Christmas is 聖誕快樂 (simplified: 圣诞快乐, pinyin spelling shèng dàn kuài lè, pronounced shuung dahn kwhy luh) in Chinese.

 

Chinese character: 聖Simplified Chinese: 圣
Chinese character: 誕Simplified Chinese: 诞
Chinese character: 快
Chinese character: 樂Simplified Chinese: 乐

 

聖 (simplified: 圣, pinyin spelling shèng, pronounced shuung) is sacred or holy. It is also short for 聖人 (simplified: 圣人, pinyin spelling shèng rén, pronounced shuung ruhn), meaning a sage or a saint.

 

誕 (simplified: 诞, pinyin spelling dàn, pronounced dahn) is birth or birthday.

 

快樂 (simplified: 快乐, pinyin spelling kuài lè, pronounced kwhy luh) is happiness, joy, delight, or rejoicings.

 

So, 聖誕快樂 (shèng dàn kuài lè), Holy Birth Happy, is how you say Merry Christmas in Chinese.

 

For Christians who believe Jesus is more than a saint, there is another common phrase for Merry Christmas in Chinese: 耶誕快樂 (yē dàn kuài lè).

 

Chinese character: 耶
Chinese character: 誕Simplified Chinese: 诞
Chinese character: 快
Chinese character: 樂Simplified Chinese: 乐

 

耶誕快樂 (simplified: 耶诞快乐, pinyin spelling yē dàn kuài lè, pronounced yeh dahn kwhy luh) is another way to say Merry Christmas in Chinese.

 

耶 (pinyin spelling yē, pronounced yeh) is short for 耶穌 (simplified: 耶稣, pinyin spelling yē sū, pronounced yeh suu), which is the transliterated name for Jesus.

 

The character 耶 (yē pronounced in the first tone as in the transliteration of Jesus) does not have a special meaning. It is a character used to imitate a sound, often used for transliteration of foreign names. In old Chinese literature, 爺 (yē or yé, can be pronounced in the first or second tone) is the same as the Lord, father, or used to indicate a question (old Chinese writing has no punctuation marks).

 

穌 (simplified: 稣, pinyin spelling sū, pronounced suu) means to revive, to come to, or to rise again.

 

Just like people speak English with different accents in different parts of America, most Chinese don’t speak 100% Beijing Mandarin. Their speech has a hint of their particular accent. Many Chinese pronounce sū as sū. In that pronunciation, the name 耶穌 (yē sū) not only sounds close to the Latin pronunciation of Jesus, but also has a great meaning: The Lord who has risen again.

 

快樂 (simplified: 快乐, pinyin spelling kuài lè, pronounced kwhy luh) is happiness, joy, delight, or rejoicings.

 

Thus, 耶誕快樂 (yē dàn kuài lè), or Jesus’ Birth Happy, is also how you say Merry Christmas in Chinese.

 

Happy Holidays!

 

Happy Holidays is 佳節快樂 (simplified: 佳节快乐, pinyin spelling jiā jié kuài lè, pronounced jee-ah jee-eh kwhy luh) in Chinese.

 

Chinese character: 佳
Chinese character: 節Simplified Chinese: 节
Chinese character: 快
Chinese character: 樂Simplified Chinese: 乐

 

佳 (pinyin spelling jiā, pronounced jee-ah) is good, excellent, beautiful, or fine.

 

節 (simplified: 节, pinyin spelling jié, pronounced jee-eh) is festival or holiday.

 

快樂 (simplified: 快乐, pinyin spelling kuài lè, pronounced kwhy luh) is happiness, joy, delight, or rejoicings.

 

So, 佳節快樂 (jiā jié kuài lè), Good Holidays Happy, is how you say Happy Holidays in Chinese.

 

How do you write and say Happy New Year in Chinese?

 

新年快樂 (simplified: 新年快乐, pinyin spelling xīn nián kuài lè, pronounced sseen nee-ahn kwhy luh) is Happy New Year in Chinese.

 

Chinese character: 新
Chinese character: 年
Chinese character: 快
Chinese character: 樂Simplified Chinese: 乐

 

新年 (pinyin spelling xīn nián, pronounced sseen nee-ahn) is New Year. 新 (xīn) is new and 年 (nián) is year.

 

快樂 (simplified: 快乐, pinyin spelling kuài lè, pronounced kwhy luh) is happiness, joy, delight, or rejoicings.

 

So “Happy New Year” in English is “New Year Happy” in Chinese: 新年快樂 (xīn nián kuài lè).

 

There is a more common way for people to greet each other at the beginning of the Chinese New Year (Saturday, January 28th this year): Gong Xi Fa Cai. We’ll post another guide for Chinese New Year’s greetings first week in January. Come back for more! I hope you enjoy this Mandarin Chinese greetings guide. Let me know if we can make it even better for you. Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Download some Chinese phrases audio files for free (3 phrases recorded by 4 so 12 files total)

A serious problem with the simplified Chinese character for holy or saint: The traditional Chinese character for holy, sacred, or saint (聖) consists of ear (耳), mouth (口), and king (王). It seems to represent a wise leader who listens and commends. Guess what happened to the simplified Chinese character for holy? If you take the Chinese character for strange or weirdo (怪) and chop the heart radical (忄) out, you get the simplified Chinese for holy (圣). So is a saint now a heartless weirdo?

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