On the Chinese New Year eve, family members usually gather at the home of the parents or elder siblings for the reunion dinner, 除夕团年饭. It is also common to hold the reunion dinner at Chinese restaurants. Every dish or food consumed has symbolic meanings.
After the reunion dinner, most people will visit the night market for some last minute shopping or to wait for sharp discounts after midnight. Others visit their favorite temple to offer their prayers immediate after midnight.
New Year Prayers
Many devotees hope to be the first person to offer their prayers and the queues often starts forming hours before midnight. Traditionally, firecrackers were ignited as part of the celebration but they are banned in most countries for safety reasons. Despite the ban, firecrackers continue to be a popular symbol during Chinese New Year.
Many people stay awake on the New Years eve,守岁, and it is believed that doing so can bring about longevity for their parents. It is usually not difficult to stay awake since there are a lot of activities and excitement everywhere.
First day of Chinese New Year
The first day of the Chinese New Year is usually a family affair. Children will visit their parents to wish them a happy new year followed by elders in the family. The elders will return the visit on the following day or during the weekends.
Every aspect of the New Year celebration has symbolic meanings. During this period, auspicious colors like red and gold are popular. White, black are best avoided for its negative associations. Most homes will be decorated with New Year decorations, flowers with auspicious meanings, New Year cards from friends. A lot of eating and drinking occurs during these New Year visits. The food or finger food served also have symbolic meanings.
New year gifts
Visitors present a pair (sometimes a few pairs) of Mandarin oranges for exchange with the host. As the oranges are exchanged, both parties greet each other with good wishes or auspicious words.
Red packets, ang pow 红包，are given to children. It contains even amounts of cash and favorite amounts include $8, $18, $88. Many companies will also give their employees a red packet on the first working day of the New Year.
The New Year visits and reciprocal visits can occur within the 15 days. The 15th day is the yuanxiao, 元宵， the last day of the New Year celebration. Families will pray to the Jade Emperor，玉帝， 天公on the yuanxiao night.
In the earlier times, young ladies will go out on the yuanxiao night and toss a pair of Mandarin oranges into the river to wish for a good husband. This custom is seldom practiced today.
The yuanxiao marks the end of the New Year celebration.