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Chinese Lanterns


Chinese Lanterns are made from paper or silk, with frame from bamboo or wood and a lit candle inside as a source of light. Modern paper lanterns have battery-operated lamps.

Cultural notes

Lanterns are widely used in China, in particular during celebrations and festivals. Celebrated on the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar month, the Lantern Festival traditionally marks the end of the Chinese New Year Spring Festival period. It’s Friday, March 2 in 2018.

People will go out to look at the moon, send up flying lanterns, fly bright drones, have a meal, and enjoy time together with family and friends in parks and natural areas.

When the festival comes, lanterns of various shapes and sizes (traditional globes, fish, dragons, goats! — up to stories high!) are seen everywhere including households, shopping malls, parks, and streets, attracting numerous viewers. Children may hold small lanterns while walking the streets.

Types of Paper Lanterns

There are several different kinds of Chinese lanterns. The most basic form is known as the Tomato Light, which is what most people around the world associate with Chinese lanterns. More often than not, the Tomato Light is red, a color which symbolizes prosperity in Chinese culture.

The second form is called Crystal Magic. This type can be made in any geometric form, from square to hexagonal, and everything in between. Crystal Magic lanterns are typically ornately decorated, reminding viewers of one of their original purposes as palace lanterns.

The third most common type of Chinese lantern is what you might see in large lantern festivals and parades across China. This type has no limits to its form, growing more elaborate with each passing year.

Suggested activities

Group/ Circle Time:

  • Read Children Like Me: Celebrations and discuss with children the differences and similarities between the cultures. Encourage children to share their family traditions and celebrations.

Music and Movement:

  • Create a Chinese Celebration with lanterns, lions heads, pellet drums and Chinese cultural music

Art & Craft: 

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The research for this resource was made possible through a grant from the Central Coast Council.