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What you may not know about “元旦” (yuán dàn)

Tomorrow is the New Year's Day! 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 recognized for over 4,000 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"

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


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


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

新年 xīn nián  New Year

元旦节 yuán dàn jiē  New Year's Day

元旦节快乐 yuán dàn jiē kuài lè  Happy New Year's Day

万事如意 wàn shì rú yì  All the best

年年有余 nián nián yǒu yú  Better than every year

一帆风顺 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.

Source: hanbridgemandarin


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