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Create Your Own Lantern Festival: A Beautiful Art Project

How to make lanterns
Make beautiful lanterns like this at home!

How to Make a Lantern at Home!

Travel makes me think of lights: glittering, romantic displays of lights like the ones I saw at holiday festivals in Italy, or night markets in Thailand.

“Why,” I’ve been wondering since returning to Boston after traveling around the world, “do gorgeous public light displays like that not exist back home?” This month I finally figured out the answer: The pretty lights are here, but I’ve been too lazy to find them!

How to make a lantern
Strings of lanterns danced in the wind.

The Boston Lantern Parade and Festival

I learned this lesson just a few weeks ago, one cold night in Boston. My baby was playing with a hair clip (an educational toy, right?), and I was curled like a hedgehog the couch. Suddenly, my phone started vibrating repeatedly.

“Are you coming to the Lantern Festival in Jamaica Plain?” friends were texting.

“Argh.” I responded. “It’s too cold outside, and I’m lazy and cozy! (Colazy?)”

DIY crafts: Colorful lanterns
I like the fancy fringe.

Homemade Lanterns Around Jamaica Pond

As the festival drew to a close, my friends’ texts grew more urgent. “The Lantern Festival almost over!” they text-screamed. “You need to see it!” At last I grumbled, threw on a hat, and strapped the baby to my chest to brave the New England chill. I arrived at Jamaica Pond with half an hour to spare.

Boston lantern parade and festival
Halloween-themed lanterns.

Colorful Lanterns Displayed Outside

As you can see from these photos, it was worth it to get off my couch. Though the wind and elapsed hours had extinguished some of the candles, dozens of colorful hand-made lanterns still winked from their strings.

I admit to knowing nothing about the festival before I trotted over, so it was with curiosity that I peered closer — creative and frugal teacher that I am — trying to figure out how the colorful lights were made.

Lantern festival Jamaica Plain
Love the creativity.

How to Make a Lantern Festival in YOUR Town

It turns out that this beautiful lantern festival would be easy to re-create in your town with some simple crafting. The only materials needed to make the lanterns are: large plastic soda bottles cut in half, tissue paper, glue, and candles!

The Jamaica Plain Lantern Festival also features live music, dancing, and hot apple cider, but if you start your own light festival in your town, methinks you could just put up the lanterns, play some recorded music, and people would still feel the joy. Does this seem like something you’d enjoy creating?

Beautiful lantern craft project
The lanterns look like they’re floating through the air.

What Art Projects Can YOU Create at Home?

Walking home after the festival with my baby snoring softly on my chest, I chuckled at how I’d almost missed a great thing. We sally forth to all corners of the globe to see foreign festivals, but sometimes forget the ones we have right at home, or the art prompts we can rally our community to create, ourselves!

Which is your favorite lantern?
Which is your favorite lantern?

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How to Make a Lantern

Lantern Crafting Materials:

Instructions to Create the Lanterns:

1. Wash the 2 liter bottles and cut off the tapered tops.

2. Cut the tissue paper into desired shapes and apply it to the dry bottles using glue on a paintbrush.

3. Optional: Decorate on top of the tissue paper using paint and/or permanent markers.

4. Glue the wax or plastic candle to the bottom of the bottle and let dry.

5. Punch holes into the upper lip of the cut bottles and string the wire through the holes.

6. Light (or turn on) the candle, hang or hold the lantern, and enjoy its beauty!

How to make a lantern from simple materials at home (ex: Soda bottles), inspired by the beautiful the Jamaica Plain Lantern Festival and Parade in Boston, MA. #Crafts #crafting #DIY #artprojects #lanterns #festivals
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So there you have it. If you try making these lanterns, do leave your advice in the comments section for how to make them maximally fabulous!

See 40 more art prompts here!

Enjoy quirky local festivals? Check out this hilarious dogs-in-costumes fashion competition.


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Friday 6th of May 2022

you could use battery operated tea lights or may be solar lights. Also you could apply outdoor mod podge to preserve the paper covering if you plan to leave them outside for awhile.


Wednesday 29th of April 2020

This is incredible! What a beautiful and special idea! Added bonus is that it seems extremely easy to make with simple tools most gave around the house. This gives me a great idea for New Years Eve!

Lillie Marshall

Wednesday 29th of April 2020



Sunday 15th of March 2020

I totally love this idea!


Friday 3rd of January 2020

Looks like a fun project that can really be something great depending on your tissue paper (or paper napkins--lots of pretty option with them as well.)

My only question would be how to light the candles? Our DollarTree sells battery candles but I'm not sure how you would turn them on once they're inside the bottle. I think perhaps flipping it upside down to get the (loose--not glued) battery out and then reinstalling upright using a long chopstick or something like that would work well. Just a thought...


Friday 6th of May 2022

@Amy, I don't think you will need to glue the lights on. I would use battery operated tea lights.

Lillie Marshall

Friday 3rd of January 2020

Great question! There are a few ways you can do it. My father-in-law cut out the bottom and rigged an opening and closing system for it. You can also create a little holding space (or cradle) to drop the fake candle into once you turn it on. The sky's the limit for options!

Ashley Johnson

Thursday 8th of August 2019

I liked that you said that one thing to consider when you are in need of lanterns for your backyard is to gather inspiration from around the world to find lanterns that will add culture to your outdoor space. I have been thinking about getting new lanterns to hang up in my backyard so that I can enjoy them during the summer months but I have been unsure as to which kind to purchase. I will be sure to consider buying lanterns that are made in the image of different countries and cultures to help me feel like I'm in a dream destination.

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