As it’s New Year’s eve today (in the Gregorian calendar), here’s a guide to writing New Year cards in Mandarin Chinese.
Note that this article describes how to write cards for 元旦前夜 (yuándànqiányè) - Western New Year’s Eve, which is not the same as the Chinese lunar new year.
Addressing the card
You don’t normally need to put ‘dear’ or anything else in front of the name in Chinese cards. If it’s someone you should display respect to, put 尊敬的 (zūnjìngde) in front of their name, and their title afterwards:
This is like putting ‘respected…’ in English.
Writing a message
There’s some specific formal language you can use on special occasions. A good one to use is ‘在 … 之际’ (zài … zhī jì). ‘之际’ is just a more formal version of ‘的时候’. You describe the special occasion in the middle:
This means ‘as the New Year approaches’. You can then wish the recipient various pleasant things using ‘祝你…’ (zhù nǐ) or ‘祝您…’ (zhù nín). Here are some suggestions:
- 新年快乐 (xīnnián kuàilè): Happy New Year
- 新年好 (xīnnián hǎo): A good New Year
- 恭贺新禧 (gōnghè xīn xǐ): Happy New Year
- 恭喜发财 (gōngxǐ fācái): A prosperous New Year
- 新年进步 (xīnnián jìnbù): Progress in the New Year
- 岁岁平安 (suìsuì píng’ān): Have peace year after year
- 富贵年年 (fùguì niánnián): Prosperity year after year
- 年年有余 (niánnián yǒuyú): Abundance year after year
It’s usually good to put these phrases in multiples of two, so write 2, 4 or even 6 of them.
It’s normal to end the card with your relationship to the recipient and your name. So you might write
in a card for your parents. You then write the date under your name.
An example card
尊敬的张老师： 在新年將來临之际，我祝您 新年好，恭喜发财 年年有余，岁岁平安 学生，小李 二零一一年十二月三十一日