Since Chinese New Year is on the way (and thanks to Xiaohouzi's great suggestion), I've been thinking all about the new year. One term the sticks out is 拜年.

I'm very curious to know the exact meaning, where the 拜年 tradition stems from, how we could best translate it to English, and the etymology of this term. Does anyone have any insight?

2 Answers 2


When Chinese new year comes, families will go out to visit their relatives, friends or seniorities. According to this page from Baidu Encyclopedia, at earlier time, the kids should kowtow(叩头, the same as 拜) to salute. In return, the elders will give them pocket money in red envelop. Nowadays kids don't have to kneel, but pocket money is still a tradition.

And you can say "pay a New Year call" in English.

  • In some places people still kowtow now. And this event also exists inside a family, younger generation (not only children) will 拜年 to the elder generation. The pocket money is only given to children though.
    – fefe
    Commented Jan 16, 2012 at 16:52

Is 拜年 restricted to from the younger generation to the older generation? If so, paying a New Year call will not be sufficiently explaining the meaning of 拜年....

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