Blowing a candle traditionally always signifies a lost soul and entering darkness, for light is what drives darkness and sorrow away. Public display of affection during a party is also not necessary and unwarranted, for such things are more often show-off than reflecting any reality.
Accepting gifts as a traditions encourages worldly desires and needs and most of the times unwanted expectations. Donating and sharing one's wealth to the needs while seeking blessings from everyone of is considered more benevolent than to current tradition.
Traditionally in the Indian culture there has been a certain significance and certain method to be followed on this day. This day signifies the start of one more year in this existence or life, while one thanks for the past one seeks blessings for the coming future with a pure soul and an austere mind. For seeking blessing on such a day we are expected to follow few simple steps..
1. Wake up early to have an oil bath, preferably seeking blessings of the elderly.
2. After the bath one has to briefly worship their respective deities (both revered deity and the family's deity).
3. Achamana(purification ritual) shall be performed reciting prayers seated facing the East direction and quietly slurping a mixture of black sesame seeds, Jagger mixed in cow milk 3 times through the right palm. This is to remove any hurdles or dangers which one encounters till their next birthday
4. One has to remember the Chrirajeevi's (born-immortals of Kali yuga) and recite their names seeking longevity of life
अश्वत्थामाबलिर्व्यासोहनुमांश्च विभीषण:कृपश्चपरशुरामश्च सप्तैतेचिरंजीविन:।
Ashwathaama Balir Vyasaha Hanumantha vibeeshanaha
Kripa Parasuramas cha Saptaitey Chiranjeevinah
Chiranjivi here are "immortals by birth" living beings destined to remain alive on Earth through this Kali Yuga's end. Ashwathama, King Mahabali, Vyasa, Hanuman, Vibhishana, Kripacharya and Parashurama are the seven chiranjeevi's for Kali yuga. EAch signifies an attribute of man
5. Seek blessings from the Parents and Teachers
The most revered and austere of blessings is " SathamAnam bhavathy SathAyu: Purushasyatha
Indhriya yEva Indhriya tE Prathithishtathi " meaning "Live for hundred years with fully life and vigor and observe the Karmas as directed in the scriptures like vedas.
6. Visit a nearest temple which is the nearest
7. One has to practice strict Brahmacharya (Celibacy) on this day reflecting their vow to longevity and respect to traditions. Also one has to restrain from other worldly desires to signify once dedication to the one purpose of life - to attain moksha
8. Offer donations (Share Wealth or atleast feed a cow some fresh grass doing pradakshina / circumambulation to the cow)
Link to the the above lecture: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8M28wan7Ek
Respect and follow the traditions, they mean a whole lot than we give them credit for.