What You Need To Know about 元旦 (Yuándàn) New Year's Day in China

Posted by Mollan Mo on 04/01/2016 5:50 PM 1222

Western New Year's Day in China

New Year's Day is here! Happy New Year! New Year's Day is an official holiday all over the world, but the celebration way varies among different countries. How does the New Year in China look like? How do Chinese people celebrate this day? Any legend or story behind New Year's Day in China, let's move on.

The origin of New Year's Day in China

Western New Year's Day in Chinese is usually called "元旦 (yuándàn)." The phrase 元旦 first appear in "晋书(Book of Jin)" of ancient China, but the meaning had been recoginized for over 4000 years. The first day of twelfth lunar month or October was celebrated as 元旦. Then it was celebrated on the first day of Lunar New Year since the reign of Emperor Wudi of the Han Dynasty. When the formation of the Republic of China, 元旦 is on the day of Jan. 1st in Gregorian calenda. Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, Gregorian January 1 was renamed named 元旦节, with the aim of distinguishing the new year(新年xīn nián) in "农历 (nónglì) lunar calendar" and the "阳历 (yánglì) Gregorian calendar."

Why do Chinese call New Year "元旦 (yuándàn)"?

The Chinese Character"元 (yuán)" means "首(beginning, first place)" . For example, 元首(yuán shǒu) means the head of state. "旦 (dàn)" means "日(day, daybreak)". Character "旦 (dàn)" is a pictograph by putting"日(rì) sun" on the top, "一 (yī) " on the bottom, which can be regarded as a horizon. "日" and "一" partnered up to become the meaning "the sun is rising slowly from the horizon", which perfectly indicates the beginning of a new day. So, joining the two words together means the first day of year. It's a celebration of discarding old and bringing in new things.

Chinese Vocabulary related to "元"

happy western new year in Chinese

  • 元首yuán shǒu: head of state
  • 状元zhuàng yuán: principal graduate, primus, or optimus
  • 状元(zhuàng yuán) was the scholar who achieved the highest score on highest level of the Chinese imperial examinations.
  • 元帅(Yuán Shuài): marshal; supreme commander

zhè wèi yuán shuài kǎi xuán ér ɡuī
The marshal returned home in triumph.

Chinese vocabulary related to "旦"

* 通宵达旦tōng xiāo dá dàn: all night long

E.g: wǒ mánɡ dé tōnɡ xiāo dá dàn


I was very busy overnight.

* 旦夕祸福dàn xī huò fú: unexpected good or bad fortune; Fortune is fickle.; sudden changes of fortune.

E.g: rén yǒu dàn xī huò fú, yuè yǒu yīn qínɡ yuán quē

人有旦夕祸福, 月有阴晴圆缺。

Men are subject to sudden changes of fortune as the moon is subject to the changes of being full and crescent, cloudy and clear.

How do Chinese people celebrate New Year's Day

Nowadays, New Year's Day becomes a "法定假日 (fǎdìng jiàrì) statutory holiday" in China. The people are rewarded with one day's vacation, then the holiday is usually before or after weekends, so usually people will get 3 days off. During this festival, people wish each other good luck in the New Year and exchange gift-cards. For Chinese young people, they usually join together, let off fireworks or attend New Year's Eve countdown party. Some TV stations, schools or companies will hold New Year's Gala to welcome and celebrate the coming of the new Year.

Chinese vocabulary relevant to New Year's Day in China

Chinese Character




xīn nián

New Year


yuán dàn jiē

New Year's Day


yuán dàn jiē kuài lè

Happy New Year's Day


wàn shì rú yì

All the best


nián nián yǒu yú

Better than every year


yì fān fēnɡ shùn

wish you prosperity

New Year's Day Greetings in Chinese

1. 祝你2016年一切顺利,新年元旦快乐!

Zhù Nǐ 2016 Nián Yì Qiè Shùn Lì, Yuán Dàn Kuài Lè!

I wish everything goes well with you in 2016. Happy New Year's Day.

2. 祝你平安健康,元旦快乐!

Zhù nǐ pínɡān jiàn kānɡ,yuándàn kuàilè!

I wish you a peaceful, healthy Year. Happy New Year's Day.

3. 元 旦 又 来 到 , 祝 福 忙 送 到 , 烦 恼 已 逃 跑 , 好 运 来 报 道 , 快 乐 围 你 绕 , 霉 运 找 不 到 。 新 的 一 年 , 愿 你 生 活 处 处 好 , 事 业 步 步 高

Yuándàn yòu lái dào, zhùfú mánɡ sònɡ dào, fán nǎo yǐ táopǎo, hǎoyùn lái bàodào, kuàilè wéi nǐ rào, méiyùn zhǎo bú dào. xīn de yìnián, yuàn nǐ shēnɡhuó chù chù hǎo, shìyè bù bù ɡāo.

New Year's Day is approaching, here comes my wishes. Trouble has run away, your life will be filled with good luck and happiness. In this New Year, I wish you a backgammon!

China is an ancient civilized country enjoying five thousand years of history. China has various and traditional festivals to celebrate every year, Chinese people celebrate the festivals in interesting but traditional way. Join our Chinese culture course to learn more about Chinese festivals and the legends behind each festival. You won't be disappointed.

About The Author

Mollan Mo

Mollan holds a bachelor’s degree in teaching Chinese as a foreign language. Experienced and skilled, she utilizes a variety of activities and methods to keep her classes lively. She loves her job and her passion to share her language and culture with others drives her to help her students succeed. Learn Chinese online with Mollan Mo >>