The Chinese Lunar New Year falls on the 10th of February on the western calendar this year. It will be the Year of the Snake, a Chinese zodiac sign that represents shrewdness and intelligence. The Chinese character for snakes is 蛇 (shé). The poisonous ones are called 毒蛇 (dúshé). 眼镜蛇 (yǎnjìngshé) is a cobra, and 响尾蛇 (xiǎngwěishé) is a rattlesnake. 四脚蛇 (sìjiǎoshé), literally a snake with four feet, is actually not a snake, but rather a lizard.
The old agriculture-based Chinese society has handed down to us the following saying:
The entire year’s planning hinges on spring.
This is akin to:
Hǎo de kāishǐ shì chénggōng de yībàn.
Well begun is half done.
As you know, the Chinese word for a year is 年 (nián). 年年 (nián), or 年年岁岁 (niánniánsuìsuì), means every year, or year after year. On the other hand, 长年 (chángnián), or 终年 (zhōngnián), means all year long. Depending on the context, 终年 (zhōngnián) could also mean the year one dies.
年初 (niánchū) is the beginning of a year, while 年底 (niándǐ), or 年终 (niánzhōng), means year-end.
Tā lǐng le bùshǎo niánzhōng jiǎngjīn.
He received a substantial year-end bonus.
年代 (niándài) is a time period, or a decade.
Zài zhègè niándài, jīhū rénrén dōu huì yòng diànnǎo.
In this time and age, nearly everyone knows how to use a computer.
年级 (niánjí) is a grade or year of a school system. 年假 (niánjià) are the New Year holidays, which often coincide with the winter vacation.
薪金 (xīnjīn) or 薪水 (xīnshuǐ) is one’s salary or pay. Therefore, 年薪 (niánxīn) means annual salary.
利息 (lìxī) is the interest on a sum of money, and 年息 (niánxī) is the annual interest.
年 (nián) also refers to one’s age, as in 年岁 (niánsuì), 年纪 (niánjì) and 年龄 (niánlíng).
Tā duō dà niánjì?
How old is he?
Tā hé wǒ tóngnián.
He and I are the same age.
年轻 (niánqīng) means young, and 年老 (niánlǎo) means aged.
幼年 (yòunián), or 童年 (tóngnián), means childhood. 中年 (zhōngnián) means middle age, and 晚年 (wǎnnián) and 老年 (lǎonián) refer to old age.
Returning to the subject of the Chinese Lunar New Year, 大年夜 (dàniányè) is the Lunar New Year’s Eve, when family would gather around and enjoy dishes of scrumptious foods together. 大年初一 (dàniánchūyī) is the Lunar New Year’s Day, when people would pay one another a New Year call, i.e. 贺年 (hènián) or 拜年 (bàinián).
Dàniánchūyī wǒmén dào yéye jiā bàinián.
On New Year’s Day, we go to Grandfather’s house to wish him a Happy New Year.
The Chinese Lunar New Year is also called the Spring Festival.
Happy Spring Festival!