Celebrate Lunar New Year with This Taiwanese Paper Lantern
Picture this: The sun has set, the stars are out, and thousands of colorful floating lanterns flicker in the sky above you. Once a year, near the end of winter, this beautiful vision comes to life in the Pingxi District in Taipei, Taiwan. This breathtaking sight is part of the Pingxi Lantern Festival, one of Taiwan’s Lunar New Year celebrations.
During the festival, Taiwanese people and many tourists write their wishes for the coming year on a lantern. Then, they light a candle or butane flame inside the lantern and release it into the sky, where the hot air from the flame makes it float (similar to a hot air balloon).
Thousands of lanterns are released, each bearing someone’s wishes. This year, celebrate this special day wherever you are by making your own paper lantern.
A Glance at the Lantern Festival in Taiwan
Pingxi, Taiwan, is a rural town nestled in the mountains. While it’s a popular tourist destination today, it was somewhat of an unsafe land a few centuries ago. Villagers usually met with a different type of visitor: bandits. Many residents would even flee to the mountains during winter to escape dangerous raids. When the risk faded, villagers still in town (typically men) would release paper lanterns into the sky to signal that it was safe to return.
Over the years, paper lanterns evolved from a practical signal into an annual tradition, honoring the district’s history and the Lunar New Year. Today, people release lanterns on the fifteenth day of the first month of the lunar calendar, and shops across the Pingxi district sell large lanterns—about two feet (60 cm) in circumference—made from rice paper for people to use during the Lantern Festival.
How to Make Paper Lanterns
We’ve created a fun and simple paper craft to celebrate this joyous time of year. Your kids can make lanterns to sit on your kitchen table or windowsill (instead of floating in the sky) from wax paper, washi tape, a little paint, and a stencil. Follow the tutorial below, make a wish when you light the lantern, and think of world travel! (Adults, ensure children use tools under your supervision. You know their abilities best!)
- Wax paper
- Washi tape
- Small (1–3 inch) flameless LED candle
- Child-safe scissors
- Finger paint (choose a color to match your wishes for the year—see below)
- Download and print our plum blossom stencil (or use your own design). Cut out the stencil and set it aside.
- Cut the wax paper into four 6-inch-long pieces with a pair of scissors (using scissors instead of the wax paper box’s serrated edge helps prevent tearing). Retain the paper’s original width because you’ll need to fold it.
- Fold one piece of wax paper in half and crease so two squares lie over each other.
- Use the stencil to paint the design on the wax paper’s bottom half.
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 across all four pieces of wax paper.
6. Allow the paint to dry.
7. Fold the top half of each piece of wax paper over its painted design.
8. Lay the wax paper squares side by side and tape them together with the washi tape. Place a line of tape across the unfolded side of each piece of wax paper to secure its edges.
9. Stand the taped-together pieces of wax paper up and form them into a four-sided lantern. The finished product should look like a box with the top and bottom open.
10. Insert the flameless candle/LED light, and the lantern is ready.
It’s time to place this piece of art in your living room or on your kitchen countertop and let kids enjoy the festival!
What Do the Lantern Colors Mean?
Part of the joy of making a lantern for the Pingxi Lantern Festival is thinking about your wishes for the new year and incorporating them into its design. Traditionally, each lantern color has a specific meaning.
- Red Lanterns: People who release red lanterns wish for good health and peace in the new year.
- Yellow Lanterns: Yellow lanterns are the go-to choice for people hoping to get more money in the new year.
- Green Lanterns: Green lanterns signify the hope of having more vigor and success.
- Purple Lanterns: Purple lanterns represent wishes about studying and tests. Students sometimes release these hoping to perform well in their upcoming exams.
- Orange Lanterns: Orange lanterns represent wishes for love and marriage.
People release lanterns in a single color or use a different color on each side to represent all their wishes for the year. All the colors, flames, and moonlight (the Pingxi Lantern Festival is always on a full moon) make for a marvelous and unforgettable display!
Celebrate and Decorate
We hope making your own DIY paper lanterns and sharing your hopes and wishes fills your family with joy and optimism.
Continue the fun and bring light into your life throughout the entire year with more seasonal and holiday crafts your family can create together. This constellation light craft is a beautiful way to recreate the stars you see in a clear summer night sky. In the fall, you can learn about Diwali (the Hindu festival of lights) and celebrate with a homemade diya. Finally, end the year on a high by lighting up your Christmas decor with a Filipino parol. With these DIY crafts, your kids can have fun while learning about other cultures all year long. To fuel that learning journey, you can also try our award-winning World Edition subscription box. Each month, it introduces kids to a new place they can explore through hands-on activities, exciting stories, cool souvenirs, and more.