Question: Should I pay respects at family members’ ancestral tablets in a temple during the lunar new year season?
Answer: Noting that the Chinese new year as an event is secular (i.e. non-religious; also non-Buddhist in nature), it is might not a good idea to habitually focus on treating the long deceased (beyond 49 days) as if they are still around for such worldly celebrations, to offer them food and prayers only during these times. Of course, during relevant Buddhist festive days focusing on aiding the deceased, it is okay to participate (on their behalf).
This should be so as if they are still around, as wandering spirits, it might further their attachment, which prevents urgent and sincere urgent Nianfo practice (of mindfulness of the name of Amitabha Buddha – ‘Amituofo’) to reach his Pure Land. Without this done in time, the winds of karma can force rebirth upon them to reach elsewhere less fortunate.
Thus, especially within the 49 days of passing, the practices listed at http://purelanders.com/2016/07/19/what-should-be-chanted-during-after-a-funeral should be done as much as possible. If it is uncertain that the deceased is already reborn, and especially if it is certain that they are still around, due to the urgency mentioned, the practices should continue for offering guidance and merits. This should be so – whether it is before, during or after seasons of worldly celebrations.