Origami for Chinese New Year

For most of my life, my origami repertoire has been quite limited. I only know the flapping bird, which my brother taught me when I was really little, and other very basic stuff from  my 5th grade art class — paper cup (very useful, I swear), crane, and a few others. But ever since a friend of mine got me a pack of beautiful origami papers for Christmas, I’ve been expanding my knowledge quite a bit.

Since Chinese New Year’s coming up on February 10th, I thought I’d learn to make some cute little things to mark the occasion. They’d make awesome decorations and if they bring good luck, well that’s a great bonus!

So I did a little research online and found some lovely prospects. I am listing them below in order of difficulty and complexity.

Gold Yuanbao

Yuanbao are what the Chinese call the boat-shaped gold ingots. Having likenesses of these precious bits are said to bring good luck, as they supposedly attract the real things. I found some instructions on how to make paper versions of these, and they are insanely easy!

Here are the products of my efforts. I used matte gold giftwrapping paper left over from the holidays, which I cut into squares.

Lotus flower

The Lian Hua, or lotus flower, represents of purity and wholesomeness, peace and harmony. Feng shui experts say that it clears away negative chi and generates positive chi and helps achieve enlightenment.

Some say it even attracts love and good marriage, which makes it a great good luck charm for Valentine’s Day. They’re pretty easy to make too, no complicated folds. The last bit is a bit tricky, but nothing that a patience and a gentle touch can’t manage. Here are the instructions.

The Omega Star


This awesome star is by John Montroll. It looks like a nightmare to make, but after bungling dismally on my first try, it got a whole lot easier. I love how sophisticated it looks, and it’s just made from a single piece of paper. Small versions of this would make great hanging ornaments and charms, and I can picture this as a lantern, when done on a large scale.

There’s a modular version of this, composed of pretty easy-to-make components, but takes some practice to put together.

Here’s a great video how-to from Origami Nut, and the page also has a link to a diagram, for those who find it easier to look at one picture rather than sit through a 10-minute video.

The Snake


This year is the Year of the Water Snake. This origami snake by Jo Nakashima is modular and is composed of several identical components that are joined together in the end, and the ends modified to make the head and tail. I thought this would be easy to make, only to discover later on that it’s not really for the faint of heart, nor for somebody who only has 2 hands with only 5 fingers each. But it felt so rewarding when I finally assembled it. And it looks adorable — probably because of the pastel blue and green paper. But still, even a person with ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) wouldn’t find anything scary in this cutiepie.

Ready for this challenge? Here’s a video on how to make it.

All images by Nathalie Mariano.

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