Trimming the Tree with Chinese Lanterns

Trimming the Tree with Chinese Lanterns

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Sitting by the tree in the evening is one of my favorite things to do during the Christmas season. There’s something calming and special about enjoying the twinkling tree lights, the scent of pine and holiday memories from years past.

I’ve been wanting to make a Chinese decoration for our tree, so that part of our family heritage could be reflected alongside the bells, stars and other ornaments. However, because Christmas isn’t a traditional Chinese holiday, a ready solution wasn’t immediately obvious to me.

Seeing a sales display of paper lanterns one afternoon in Chinatown gave me the creative inspiration I needed. Chinese lanterns, after all, symbolize family reunion and I thought that using red and gold colors for luck and prosperity captured the cultural spirit I was seeking.

After enjoying the warm glow of the lanterns on our tree, I am so pleased with the results. Best of all, making Chinese lanterns for your tree is the kind of fun and simple family project that feels so natural this time of year, like sitting around the living room stringing popcorn together.

Pick fun paper for your lanterns. I recycled a pack of Chinese red envelopes with shiny gold foil, but any paper with a pattern on it will work just as well. Just make sure the paper is stiff enough to hold its shape once it’s folded into a lantern.

If you get the kids involved, you’ll be able to create lanterns for an entire string of tree lights in less than an hour. From there, attach the lanterns to your lights with tape, step back with a mug of warm apple cider and enjoy the amazing light display you’ve created.

Here’s how to make Chinese Christmas tree lanterns, step-by-step. The detailed tutorial with pictures and directions is at the bottom of the page.

Your turn! Can you share any tips from your experience making these Chinese lanterns? Want to ask a question before making them yourself? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

Chinese Tree Lanterns

Makes: 10 Lanterns | Prep Time: 5 Minutes | Project Time: 1 Hour



10 Chinese red envelopes or 2 sheets red construction paper

Step-By-Step Tutorial


Start by gathering your materials. This project couldn’t be simpler — all you need are a handful of Chinese red envelopes, or red construction paper, plus a ruler, tape and scissors!


Begin by cutting your paper down into 3 1/2″ by 2 1/2″ rectangles.


Here’s where you can really see the benefit of using red envelopes for this project. Cutting out the rectangles reveals all sorts of cool patterns in the paper.


Next, cut a 1/4″ strip off the short end of each rectangle. You’ll use this for the lantern’s handle.


Fold the paper in half lengthwise. Give it a good strong crease. This will be the “hinge” in the middle of the lantern.


Starting from the creased edge, cut 1/4 inch ribbons that stop about 1/4″ from the edge of the rectangle.


When you’re done, you should have these 1/4″ strips cut across the entire length of the folded paper.


Pull the two ends of your folded rectangle together to form a cylinder with the folded crease in the middle bulging outward. Secure the lantern with small strips of tape along the seam you create when you pull the two edges together.


Put small pieces of tape on either end of the small strip of paper you cut earlier for the lantern handle.


Press the ends of the handle gently into the sides of the lantern. With the lantern standing upright, you can push down on the top to make the sides flare out further.


Repeat the assembly process with the other nine lanterns. This is a great step in the process to get other helping hands involved!


Once you’ve finished cutting and taping, you’ll have 10 lanterns ready for the tree.


Attach the Chinese lanterns to your tree lights by affixing a small piece of tape to the back of the lantern and the tree light cord. Adjust as necessary, then step back and enjoy the miniature lantern festival you’ve created on your tree! The effect is particularly beautiful when it’s dark outside.

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