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How to Make a Chinese Lantern from Hongbao (Red Envelopes)

Chinese New Year Facts

Red lanterns are popular decorative items in China. You can find red lanterns, small or large, globular or square hung along the streets, in parks, in shops, and in Chinese houses. 

Almost every major Chinese festival features lanterns, especially during Chinese New Year, and, of course, during the Lantern Festival. Here’s a guide for how to make your own red lantern with your recycled hongbao (red envelopes), which we are sure you have. ;) 

In the West, you can find hongbao in Chinese food stores and some restaurants. During Chinese New Year, hongbao are widely sold in almost all the shops in big cities and small towns in China. What you need here are just the most common and cheapest ones.

Click to learn more on Chinese Lanterns.

What You Need?

Chinese red lanternsChinese red lanterns
  • 44 red envelopes (the same size), or 44 pieces of thin rectangular red card (8 pieces slightly longer than others)
  • 8 pieces of card that can be put into a red envelope
  • Adhesive or a roll of double-sided adhesive tape
  • Stapler
  • Red crewel yarn (red string): 1 medium tassel and 8 small tassels (if you have no tassels, you can cut and bundle the red crewel yarn into medium and small tassels)
  • 24 flowers and beads (or other decorative items)
  • Time needed: about two and a half hours

Preparation Work

1. Fold 16 red envelopes into isosceles triangles, and remember to crease the edge well. The photo below shows the back, and the right one shows the front.
red envelop

2. Put the 8 pieces of card into 8 red envelopes.

Instructions

1. Arrange the 24 prepared envelopes into 3 rows, with the 8 envelopes with card in in the middle row, triangles pointing up on the top row and down on the bottom row. Tape the middle row together (at the back) and the triangles on at the top and bottom edges of the middle row.
Chinese Lantern

2. Make the rows into a ring, taping the middle row to make the ring continuous.
Chinese Lantern

3. Staple the folding lines of the upper triangles.
Chinese Lantern

4. On the upper end, insert red crewel (with a medium tassel at the end) and staple the opening.
Chinese Lantern

5. At the bottom insert small tassels between the triangles, and staple the folding lines.
Chinese Lantern

6. The main part of the lantern is done. Set it aside.
Chinese Lantern

7. Take another 16 red envelopes, and fold each one into 4 equal parallel strips.
Chinese Lantern

8. Apply adhesive on one end strip of each folded envelope.
Chinese Lantern

9. Fold the 16 envelopes into open-ended triangular prisms, and stick them.
Chinese Lantern

10. Apply adhesive to one side of each prism and stick 4 prisms on a face of the middle of the lantern for a corrugated effect.
Chinese Lantern

11. Stick on the remaining 12 prisms, 4 on each alternate face of the middle of the lantern.
Chinese Lantern

12. Unseal the bottom edges of the 4 remaining envelopes (so that these envelope are a bit longer than a normal red envelope), and stick them on remaining 4 faces of the middle of the lantern. Stick only the two ends, so that they can form a protruding arc shape.
Chinese Lantern

13. Here comes the decoration step: paste flowers on the 16 vertices of the middle row.
Chinese Lantern

14. Lastly, staple the corners together, at the top and bottom, and your red lantern is done! You can affix it high on a wall or under the eaves to make your house more festive.
Chinese Lantern

The finished Chinese lantern

Chinese Lantern

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