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The questions Is there a traditional Chinese New Year greeting? and Which expression do native speakers actually use: Chinese New Year or Spring Festival (or other)? describe various greetings for this time of year. But they do not specifically address 新年快乐.

Chinese people in the US often say this to me at this time of year, but I think it is really not said in China. Is that true? I have never been in China for this festival.

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新年快乐 or 过年好 are the most commonly used expressions, because most Chinese people consider the new year of the Chinese calendar as the new year. – Wang Zong'an Feb 8 at 23:33
    
Yeah. Other commonly used greetings are "新春大吉”,“新春快乐” etc. – Vim Feb 9 at 2:13
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Yes. 新年=New Year, while it does not specify whether it's the new year of the Chinese calendar(农历) or the Gregorian calendar(公历).

So it's ok to say 新年快乐 in both cases. And normally we'll interpret it based on the context. If you wish to be more specific, you can use 元旦 for 公历新年 and 春节 for 农历新年.

Edit:

My personal opinion about the usage of 快乐 in greetings (as a native speaker myself):

  • Generally, 新年快乐 seems more formal to me while 新年好 seems more casual.
  • 新年快乐 is mostly used with other greetings/blessings, starting with 祝(你). eg. 祝你新年快乐,万事如意,心想事成. Thus, it's better used in written language, where you'd use one long sentence to express your best wishes to someone.
  • Both can be used when people meet during the Spring Festival, but you'd use multiple short phrases instead of one long sentence in the oral language, so 新年好 probably better suit the case.
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Yes, mainlanders say this. At the very least, my wife says this to other mainlanders and she is from 黑龙江. She seems to vary between 春节快乐 and 新年快乐.

Mainland expats at my work have been saying 新年快乐 to me all day too, but I haven't heard a 春节快乐 yet :-)

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"Happy (快乐)" is not a traditional greeting. I believe that it came to the Chinese language with English greetings such as "happy new year" and "happy birthday", which the majority of younger people adopted as the standard greeting of virtually all special days.

When it comes to the oral noun, "Spring Festival (春节)" is definitely said more often than "new year", at least in Northern China where I'm from.

None of the traditional greetings uses the word "happy (快乐)". Instead, "恭喜发财", "过年好", "新年好" are dominantly common.

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Usually Chinese can say "新年快乐" and "新年好" on both January 1st and Chinese new year(Spring Festival). But "过年好" is only used at Chinese new year. Also "新春快乐" is used at Chinese new year only,but it is for written or formal occasions.

At least in northern China,恭喜发财!is not used frequently I guess.Maybe businessman like to say that?I'm not sure.

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Because 新年快乐 is such a standard form of saying it, sometimes it may make it feel you don't have the enthusiasm when you say it.

A more cheerful and upbeat form of saying it may be 恭喜发财!(may you be prosperous), or even a form of 恭喜!恭喜!恭喜发财! for the warmth and enthusiasm.

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Whether it is a "greeting" specifically might be arguable, but if you watch the CCTV Chinese New Year Gala ("春晚", colloquially), you will hear a fairly steady stream of "新年快乐"s. It is most definitely a very normal thing for Chinese people in China say to one another.

If you are looking for a greeting specifically, some of the things rwei suggested like "新年好" might be more common, but that might also depend on regional differences. Keep in mind that "China" is a very large place and speaking patterns are not always uniform.

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  • 新年快乐 (Xīnnián kuàilè)

  • 新年好 (xīn nián hǎo)

  • 过年好 (guò nián hǎo)

Here is a comprehensive guide about Chinese New Year and New Year greetings.

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1  
Thanks, but this is the kind of thing that confuses me. The site lists 新年快乐 under "How to say Happy New Year in Chinese" and I already know that. They do not list it under "Popular Chinese New Year Greetings," so I asked whether it is in fact used in China. Chinese people often say 新年快乐 to me in the US, but they know I am not Chinese. So I wondered if they were choosing this version for me around Spring Festival because they know "Happy New Year" is a popular greeting in English around Jan 1. – Colin McLarty Feb 16 at 14:13

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