The first thing to do right after waking up in the morning of Chinese New Year day for ancient Chinese is to open the door and set off firecrackers. Today, Chinese don't sleep in the Chinese New Year eve and wait for the Chinese New Year day coming. As soon as midnight is past, people at home should be able to hear the sound of firecrackers one after another.
The sound of firecrackers and fireworks tells people the new year has arrived. People offer the New Year's greetings while they are watching TV shows, enjoying the fireworks or gambling. They have to send greetings to parents or eldest members in the house first, then to siblings. The most popular greeting is Gong Xi Fa Chai (Cantonese pronounces Gong Hay Fat Choy), which means "congratulations and make a fortune." The firecracker and congratulations greeting are from the story of animal Nian. "Make a fortune" is to wish people rich, because Chinese love to talk about money. In order to have a better luck in the coming year, some Chinese are at home during the midnight, they go to the temple to ask good luck from deities right after new year comes.
Some Chinese family change the new clothes right after midnight or the Rat hour in the Chinese New Year Eve. Then they choose the lucky hour from Chinese Farmer's Calendar to worship spirits and ancestors with candles, fruit, rice cake, tea, long noodle and candies. The purpose of this worship to tell spirits and ancestors the new year arrives. In the end of the ceremony, they will open the door, select a lucky money direction to explode the firecrackers, which means to get rid of old bad stuff and welcome the new coming. Some Chinese family give the Red Envelope to children at this time, then the children go to bed.
After dawn, it's time to say Chinese New Year greetings to neighbors, friends, coworkers, and relatives. Before time of telephone, school teachers will go back to school to greet each other. Government employees will go back the office to say happy new year. Now many people say Gong Xi Fa Chai by phone or send the greeting by e-mail.
On the Chinese New Year day, Chinese eat the breakfast without meat from the New Year Eve leftover. At noon, they have to worship the Spirit of The House with simple animal sacrifices, vegetables and rice. At the evening, they worship family ancestors again with full dinner food.
In the morning, all the children are supposed to wear new clothes, pants, shoes, hat or jacket. Every family should prepare many different kind of sweet candies in a tray for people visiting their houses. If a child goes with adult to visit someone and says Gong Xi Fa Chai, he can receive a Red Envelope. In Taiwan, the president, city mayors and temples will prepare many Red Envelopes for their supporters. Since the number of Red Envelopes is limited, people have to go earlier and wait in a long line in order to have a handshake and Red Envelope.
Chinese New Year day is closed to the early spring. That means it's a beginning of blossom season. The popular flowers for Chinese New Year are orchid, narcissuses, peach flower, chrysanthemum, kumquat, cherry blossoms, camellia and so on. So some people like to visit the flower garden or attend flower expo to enjoy the sight of flowers or bring some flower pots home.
Some Chinese would like to take whole family to countryside to enjoy the beautiful scenery. Some like to go to temple to see the crowd and pray for coming luck. Today, more young people go to department stores to spend their Red Envelope money and shop for the New Year special bargains or go to movie theater with friends. Certainly, some are still like to sit by the Mah-Jong table to earn money.
It's getting less chance to see the lion dancing or dragon dancing on the modern city street. People have to go to national culture streets to see the Chinese New Year traditional activities. Over there, people can see lion dance, the god of money, parade, open theater opera, puppet show, etc. They also can buy different traditional candies, their zodiac animal symbols, food, gifts from the culture stores.
Chinese keep the lion dancing custom is because that they think lion image can expel the evil spirit away. Chinese believe that dragon is charge of rain. The dragon dancing is praying for appropriate rain to grow the more crops during the farmer society. Also, dragon is an auspicious and notable symbol which can bring people luck. You can watch the Lion Dancing video from the following link - video of Chinese New Year Lion Dancing.
The unique style of music for Chinese New Year can be hear at Chinese New Year Music (MP3). You can hear those music from department stores, radio stations, TV stations, and during the lion dancing or dragon dancing on the street.
There are some taboos on the Chinese New Year Day at Chinese New Year Taboo page.