Paper lanterns have become some of the most popular housing decorations in recent years, especially among millennials, but their history and origin stretch back to hundreds of thousands of years ago. They are all unique and beautiful in their own way and add the perfect oriental touch to any living space or party atmosphere. However, before you go purchase a paper lantern or take the time to make one, read up on the incredible history of these works of art. Then spread them around your home for all to enjoy.
History of Paper Lanterns
Paper lanterns originated centuries ago in China amid the country's Eastern Han Dynasty. According to legend, a marvelous crane flew down to earth from the heavens. Villagers hunted down the crane and killed the beautiful bird, creating outrage among the dynasty. The Jade Emperor was particularly upset by the villagers and their unruly massacre of the bird. According to history, cranes were the emperor's favorite bird.
In retaliation for the killing, the emperor told the villagers that on the 15th lunar day, he would start a fire that would destroy the entire village. A wise villager told fellow citizens to create red lanterns, launch fireworks and set off firecrackers on the 15th lunar day to create an illusion that the village was in fact already up in flames. It fooled the emperor into believing a fire had started and the village was ultimately saved from the emperor's fury.
A tradition was born, and from then on lanterns were lit and displayed all over the village on the 15th day of the first lunar month in the Chinese calendar. Today lantern festivals sweep the world, leaving onlookers mesmerized by the unique beauty and handcrafted skill each lantern exhibits.
Historically, lanterns were crafted from bamboo, wood, wheat straw, and stretched silk. Today, you will most likely find these lanterns made of metal, energy efficient lighting, and paper; but their beauty is still just as breathtaking.
While paper lanterns have become modernized, it is important to remember the rich culture and history behind each piece of art, especially if you are witnessing them pass through the streets at a traditional paper lantern festival.
Paper lanterns can be made from numerous materials depending on what you are looking for. The list of supplies is extremely small and easy to attain. Generally, you will need paper, glue, a ruler, wooden skewers, a pencil, scissors, wire, wire cutters, and a cord or string to hang the lantern. Again, these supplies will vary depending on what kind of paper lantern you are making and the look you are going for. For example, if you are going for a more bohemian look, you may opt for a thinner paper like tissue paper instead of a thick construction paper.
10 Cool Paper Lanterns Designs
Chinese New Year Lantern
This is the classic paper lantern design you see all over crafting sites. This design is definitely the easiest to make and is perfect for parties, especially children’s parties, to add pops of color all around. For this paper lantern, you will need a cylindrical object for the middle and double-sided tape and one to two-inch cut strips of construction paper.
You simply attach one side of the paper to one end of the cylinder and the other side of the paper to the opposite side of the cylinder. You want to make sure the construction paper is around two times the length of the cylinder to ensure there is a bubble shape that emulates the classic paper lantern look.
Wax Paper Lantern
This is more of a chandelier paper lantern. You will need a flat circular base to start off your wax paper lantern. Cut wax paper into circle shapes and begin attaching them to the circle base and to each other so that it follows a scale pattern. You can make this paper lantern as short or long as you want. If you want to take this up a level, you can use a pendant light as your base. Then you can attach the wax paper to it, and when the light is on the wax paper will reflect a fun design onto nearby walls and surfaces.
Tissue Paper Disc Lantern
This is a really easy paper lantern to make. Simply cut tissue paper into disc shapes and paste them onto a sphere-shaped item, whether it is a light ball or a pre-made paper lantern. Have the discs cascade around the sphere to create a scale look. Cover the sphere and your paper lantern is complete! Have fun with colors depending on the space you are hoping to place your paper lantern in.
Thumb Tack Paper Lantern
For this paper lantern, you will just need double-sided tape, construction paper, and a thumbtack. Fold the paper so that it creates a cylinder shape with open holes on the top and bottom. Then take a thumb tack and poke holes in the paper to create a design. Once you are done poking the holes, set the cylinder over a battery operated candle and watch the holes light up illuminating the design you created using the thumbtack.
Jellyfish Paper Lantern
This is a fun paper lantern idea. For this one, you will purchase a pre-made paper lantern from a store. You can typically find these for cheap in a flat package, and all you have to do is pop it out and it expands into a sphere shape. You are actually going to deconstruct the pre-made paper lantern by cutting it in half so the bottom half disconnects.
You are then going to take streamers and other dangling strings to attach around the edge of the top side of the lantern. Attach the streamers and string all around the edge until you have filled the entire space. Then hold up the lantern and you will see a jellyfish-shaped paper lantern.
Disco Ball Paper Lantern
This is a fun paper lantern that will spice up any space. This lantern is great in a craft room, kids room, playroom, or for a party because of its fun and sparkly design. For this, you will need to purchase a paper lantern from a store. Typically you can find all white paper lanterns in a flat package that pop out and have a device to hang it from the ceiling. Cover the lantern in a glue adhesive and dump glitter on top. Let it sit for a couple of minutes and then shake off excess glitter. This method will leave you with a paper lantern disco ball.
Tissue Paper Flower Lantern
This is one of the easiest paper lanterns to make. Again, you will have to purchase a sphere shaped device or a pre-made paper lantern. Get some of your favorite colored tissue paper and begin rolling them into flower shapes. You can do this a number of different ways depending on what flower shape you are looking for. Then all you have to do is glue the flowers onto the sphere shape and hang it up!
Doily Paper Lantern
You can make a Doily paper lantern a number of different ways. First of all, you will need to cut your doilies in half so you have semi-circle doilies. You then should attach the doilies to each other so that they hang in a cascade. In order to have these hang in a cascade way, you should take a paper plate and begin attaching the doilies around the edge. Once you have the first layer of doilies attached to the paper plate, begin attaching more to create a waterfall of doilies. This shape is not a conventional paper lantern, but it is just as beautiful.
Pom Pom Paper Lantern
This is a fun and easy lantern idea that works all year round. For this, you will need to purchase a paper lantern from a store. Typically you can find all white paper lanterns in a flat package that pop out and have a device to hang it from the ceiling. Gather pom poms in whichever color you prefer and glue them onto the lantern. If you have time, you can cover the entire lantern in pom poms. If you are restricted on time, you can do a spiral design with the pom poms.
Newspaper Paper Lantern
If you are all about reusing and recycling, a newspaper paper lantern is a great option for you! For this, you need a metal wire base of some sort. You can usually find a plain wire base at a craft store, or you can easily make one using wire and wire cutters. Simply cut newspaper into small circles and use double-sided tape to attach them onto each other covering the entire base.
Paper lanterns are great decorative pieces whether you are designing a room in your house or if you are throwing a party. Whether you want to add a special flair to your pendant light by creating a wax paper lantern or want to recycle newspaper, a do-it-yourself paper lantern is always a fun idea.