Happy New Year 2021

Image @Catherine Li

What a wonderful moment that we all want to cherish the start of Year 2021 with our best wishes for a healthy and happy year that, hopefully, is free from anxiety, anger, chaos, hatred and all the other negative feelings and emotions of 2020.

In this day, the Chinese communities, local and global, would express their new year greetings to families, friends, colleagues and even strangers with a heartfelt Happy New Year – 新年快乐 (Xīnnián kuàilè) in Chinese. An alternative expression is 元旦快乐 (Yuándàn kuàilè). While both are official and commonly used, the former is more inclusive as it can be used for the lunar Chinese New Year (aka. Spring Festival) and the latter is exclusively referred to 1st January in its modern sense.

In fact New Year’s Day (元旦) is a new festival to Chinese, although it appeared in the ancient times and meant ‘the first day of a year’. The Chinese character ‘元 (yuán)’ means ‘at the beginning’ or ‘the start of numbers’ and ‘旦’ means ‘the start of a day’. It referred to the first day of Chinese lunar year in history. However, it has been changed into the first day in Gregorian calendar since the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949.

Language points

  • 新 (xīn) – new
  • 年 (nián) – year
  • 快乐 (kuàilè) – happy
  • 元 (yuán) – the start of numbers, the beginning
  • 旦 (dàn) – the start of the day; the component ‘日’ part refers to the sun and the component ‘一‘ refers to the horizon. Hence, 旦 means the sun rising from the horizon to make the start of a day.
  • 元旦 (Yuándàn) – New Year’s Day; the first day of the year

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