How to make floating paper lanterns

How to make floating paper lanterns

In Japan, it is popular during festivals to make floating paper lanterns, also known as toro-nagashi. They are lit and placed on the river or ocean to float down to help their deceased ancestors find their way back into the world of the dead. Making these paper lanterns to respect the dead was common in Japan, however, it has passed onto American tradition to make fancy ones for wedding receptions or American affairs.

First, you will need a good, sturdy floating base. You can buy a nice Styrofoam at most craft stores, which come precut in just about any shape you need. Make sure it is a nice wide base for your lantern, as you will not want something which tips over easily in the wind while in the water. Make sure the base is actually Styrofoam and not the florist type for flower arrangements, as that will sink.

You will need some heavy wire to construct a frame. Wooden dowels can also be used. Wooden dowels are easiest if you wish to make a square paper lantern, but I recommend the heavy wire so you can be creative and make wonderful shapes for your lantern. Either cut the dowels to the size you need and put one in each corner or use the wire. If you’re using the wire, try to make it even all around. Either placing one in each corner or evenly spaced on a round base. Curve the wire to the shape you want it to be. Make sure, however, when you put one on each corner not to place the dowels or wire too close to the edge, as it might help the lantern tip over.

If you’re using dowels, you will want to attach more dowels on the top to make it much like a naked wall’ like building a house. You can attach these with masking tape. If you used the heavy wire, I’m sure you already built the tops and sides of your paper lantern. If your frame is made to your liking, use a glue paste or stick to attach colored rice paper to the sides. If you do not have rice paper, tissue paper is a great alternative and very colorful. Use some of the paper on the top of your lantern but leave space to put your lantern in. This will help keep the light in and make a beautiful glow when it is floating in your water.

Use small tea light candles to put in your lantern. There are also small press-lights you can buy at hardware stores. Unlike the bigger ones used to light hallways, these are a great size for your lovely paper lanterns. This is also a great alternative in case you’re worried about catching the paper on fire, which normally should not be a problem. Sometimes it’s good just to be safe and get the small battery-powered lights.

Now, just place your candle or light in the paper lantern. Light your candle or press your light. Set the lantern afloat on a river, lake, ocean or a bowl filled with water for a lovely bridal centerpiece.


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