Let There Be Lanterns

It’s How-to Wednesday!

A canopy of paper lanterns along the streets of Seoul

‘Tis the season of balmy nights and outdoor entertaining! Last week, in her post on decorating for outdoor parties, Midori suggested the use of paper lanterns to create a beautiful and intimate atmosphere. And they are quite magical in the way they pierce the twilight with their soft glowing light — and did you know they are surprisingly quite easy to make?

Here are a couple of easy lanterns that you can make for your garden soirees.


These originated in Latin America and are used during Christmastime. This is actually the easiest type of lantern to make. Get some brown paper bags and scrunch them up a bit. Fill them up an inch or two with sand, pebbles, rice, or beans. Put tealights in them and, voila! Lamps! Use them to line a path or walkway, or as tabletop lamps.

Luminarias. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Japanese Paper Lanterns

A chochin embellished with tissue paper dots. Image from Flickr user swelldesigner.

They’re called chochin in Japanese, and a few of these babies would lend any space a serene Asian atmosphere. They are traditionally made of a frame of split bamboo that has been wound in a spiral, covered with silk or japanese washi paper.  But they can be made of wire and any paper that’s thin enough to let some light through. They take some time to make, but they’re easy enough.

I found these detailed lantern-making instructions on WikiHow.

Sky Lantern

A screen shot from Disney"s "Tangled"

From the time I saw the floating lights in the movie “Tangled”, these dreamy, beautiful, luminous objects have kept me in their thrall. They are called kongming in China, and khomloi in Thailand. These sky lanterns are actually mini hot air balloons — they are lit up with candles or some other fuel cell, and the hot air that gathers at the top of the lamps will at some point cause them to rise to the sky. When the sources of heat goes out or is consumed, they’ll gently float back down to earth.

I would not recommend making your own sky lanterns. But you can buy them in 10′s from Amazon or in singles from Just Artifacts. They are absolutely fantastic! Watch where they land though, or try to control where they go by tethering them with a piece of string or yarn tied to its base.

Real, honest-to-goodness floating lights are released into the night sky during Yi Peng, a Thai festival celebrated during a full moon in November. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

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