Saying Happy New Year Annotated

New Year’s is an awesome time because it’s a holiday celebrated the world over. Literally. Even if you don’t celebrate New Year’s, it still happens. The very first place to ring in the new year is Samoa (also Tonga and Kiritimati in that time zone) while one of the last places to celebrate is Baker Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Each country has its own ways of celebrating and its own “Happy New Year” saying. Over half the world’s population speaks 10 basic languages, but there are millions of individually recognized dialects, local speech variations, and hybrid languages like Creole. Do you know what the most widely spoken language is around the world? The answer might surprise you.

  1. Mandarin If we think about the world in terms of population, this one makes total sense. Over 1.2 billion people speak Chinese with about 1 billion of those speaking Mandarin. Although the Chinese actually celebrate their New Year sometime between late January and mid-February, you will still hear plenty of people shouting this from the rooftops on January 1st: 过年好, or guò nián hão This literally translates to “Good Wishes as you Pass through the New Year.” It may be a good idea to type this into Google and get a full pronunciation since Chinese is a tonal language; how you say the word is what gives it meaning, not the word itself.
  2. Spanish That’s right, the number two most spoken language is Spanish. There are over 400 million native Spanish speakers in the world. In Mexico, Spain, and other Hispanic countries, it’s customary to eat twelve grapes at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck. You have to eat them one by one, each on a strike of the clock’s bell according to tradition. Afterwards, you can cheer and shout: Feliz año nuevo Alternate sayings include Próspero año nuevo (A Prosperous New Year) or just Feliz 2018 (Happy 2018).
  3. English Finally, we get to English. There are approximately 360 million native English speakers and an additional 500 million who speak English as a second language (only native speakers were tallied for the rankings). In English, the primary saying is “Happy New Year!”
  4. Hindi The subcontinent of India has no less than 22 major languages and an additional 720 dialects, but Hindi is the most common language with approximately 420 million native speakers. India celebrates the New Year much like the United States with parties, concerts, and Bollywood stars hosting televised programs. If you tuned in, you’d probably hear: नया साल मुबारक हो, or naya saal mubaarak ho
  5. Arabic The number five top language in the world is Arabic. This is no surprise considering it’s the official language of Algeria, Bahrain, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen, and at least 14 other countries. Like Chinese, there are different dialects that could make conversation tricky from one country to the next, but they all say Happy New Year the same way: سنة جديدة سعيدةsunat jadidat saeida

Here are a few more popular New Year’s sayings from around the world:

  • Afrikaans: Voorspoedige nuwe jaar
  • Dutch: Gelukkig Nieuwjaar
  • French: Bonne année
  • Greek: Eutychismenos o kainourgios chronos
  • Hawaiian: Hauoli Makahiki hou
  • Hebrew: Shana Tova
  • Japanese: Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu (あけましておめでとうございます)
  • Korean: saehae bog manhi badeuseyo (새해 복 많이 받으세요)
  • Portuguese
  • Russian:s Novym godom (с Новым годом)
  • Swedish: Gott nytt år
  • Zulu: Jabulela unyaka omusha