In many Asian countries, including Thailand and Japan, the people prepare for festivals by making lotus-shaped paper lanterns. During the festivals they wish upon their paper lantern and set them afloat on a river. Wishes include desires for love and luck, as well as apologies to the Earth and river itself for any misuse during the preceding year. Traditionally the lanterns are made from natural materials such as banana tree leaves and stems, but you can make a paper version that, while not necessarily biodegradable, will be a beautiful addition to a pond or swimming pool for a home party.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- 6-inch diameter green styrofoam disk
- Medium-weight translucent pink and green paper
- U-shaped hairpins
- White glue
Draw seven pointed lotus leaf shapes about 8 inches long and 3 inches wide on the green paper and cut out. Draw eight-pointed lotus petal shapes on the pink paper about 6 or 7 inches long and 2 inches wide and cut out. You can also use white paper for lotus petals. In addition, you can make the leaves and petals out of any colour paper you choose for a different look. It is best to use translucent paper, however, to make it easy to see the tealight inside when it is done. Use medium-weight paper so that the leaves and petals hold their shape without the need of wire or other support.
Fold each leaf and petal in half lengthways and reopen, leaving a crease. Curl the ends of the leaves and petals inward around a pencil so that they stand up.
Assemble the lotus flower on top of the styrofoam disk. Place the leaves on the disk first, placing one end in the centre of the disk with the pointed end overhanging the disk's edge. Fan the leaf pieces out so they cover the disk. Put the petals inside the leaves and fan them into a circle as well. Secure everything with the u-shaped hairpins, pushing the pins through the paper into the styrofoam disk below. Leave the middle of the lotus as open as possible.
Glue the tealight in the centre of the lotus flower. Allow the glue to dry and you are ready to light it and launch your floating lotus lantern in the nearest pool or pond.
Tips and warnings
- Use battery-powered votive lights instead of tealights so there is no open flame.
- You can also create interior decorations by floating these lanterns in bowls of water or an empty aquarium tank inside.
- This project makes a good learning tool for teaching children about Asian festivals.
- Exercise extreme caution when using these lanterns because of the open flame.
- Always reclaim your floating lantern after the tealight has gone out. Styrofoam and some papers are not biodegradable, and you must not leave them outside to become pollution.
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