The use of Chinese lanterns dates back to the first century A.D. First used chiefly to provide light, later, they were used by monks to pay homage to Buddha. Today, they are still used in Chinese celebrations, especially Lantern Festival, Chinese National Day and Chinese New Year. Traditional lanterns are red which is a symbol of life and prosperity, although today, many Chinese lanterns have contemporary shapes and colors.
Materials for Chinese Lanterns
- construction paper 9 x 12 inches and/or scrapbook paper or heavy wrapping paper, cut into 9 by 12 inches pieces
- glue stick or stapler
- hole punchor yarn needle (optional)
- twine or yarn (optional)
- markers, paint or crayons (optional)
- washi tape, ribbon or other decorations (optional)
Directions for Single Chinese Lanterns
Cut a 1 inch strip off one of the short sides of your construction paper. You can use this strip as a handle or use it to decorate your lantern.
If you would like your Chinese lantern to have a pattern, you can either use scrapbook/heavy wrapping paper or color your own design directly on a piece of construction paper. Check the internet or books for traditional Chinese designs or draw whatever you like. If your design has a top and bottom, turn your paper horizontally/width wise when drawing. (NOTE: If you want to create a pattern that follows the strips, wait until you have cut the slips before drawing on the paper.)
Fold your construction paper in half lengthwise. (The two long sides of the paper will be at the top.) If you are using a piece of paper with a design, it should be on the outside. Whether you have a design or not, this will now be referred to as the “right side” of your lantern.
Make a copy of the template. Fold it in half along the fold line. Place the folded template over the folded construction paper, centering it from side to side if necessary. The folds should be touching.
Holding the two pieces of paper together, cut along the cutting lines. Make sure you do not cut beyond the cutting lines. This will create a 1 1/2 inch uncut border at the top and bottom of your lantern. If your child is having difficulty cutting and holding the paper together, hold the paper for your child and let them cut the strips.
Remove the template and unfold your construction paper with the “right side” facing you.
If you would like to create a pattern that follows the strips, smooth the paper flat and draw your designs on the cut strips.
Apply glue at the top and bottom of the first strip on the left side. You will be placing glue on the “right side” of the paper.
Roll the paper into a tube, with the “right side” of the lantern visible. Overlap the right strip over the glued left strip. Gently press the strips together to bond. It helps the paper bond if you place paper clips over the top and bottom overlaps for a few minutes. If you prefer, you can staple the top and bottom of the lantern together at the top and bottom border.
If you would like, add washi tape or other decorations to the top and bottom border.
It is now time to add your handle. You can use the 1 inch strip of construction paper you originally cut off your paper. Glue or staple it to the inside of your lantern.
We prefer to use yarn or twine because it tends to hold up better than the paper handle. If you want to use yarn or twine, use a paper punch or a large yarn needle and make 2 holes into the top border directly across from one another. Place the hole about 1/2 inch from the top of the lantern. If your pattern has a top and bottom, make the wholes in the top border.
Cut a piece of yarn or twine 12 inches long. Tie the ends to the two holes.
Your Chinese lantern is now ready to hang!
Directions for a Double Chinese Lanterns
If you would like to make a Double Chinese Lantern, make the outside lantern first. Make it the same as the single lantern until you get to the part of adding the handle. If you want to use a patterned piece of paper, use it for this outside lantern.
Now, make the inner lantern. Make it the same as the other lanterns until you get to the part of gluing up the side. At this point, when you overlap the right side over the glued left side, make it SLIGHTLY smaller than the outer lantern, only about 1/4 inch.
Slip the inner lantern inside the outer lantern.
Offset it the inner lantern slightly so you can see the inside color. In other words, your strips should not line up.
Place a couple dabs glue on the inner lantern top and bottom borders so they bond with the outer lantern. You can staple them together if you prefer.
Add either handle as described above.