Adele has been a youth services librarian for 25 years. She is also a mother to a daughter from China.
Chinese New Year and Lantern Festival
Every Chinese New Year (also called Lunar New Year) is associated with one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. The year 2022 is the Year of the Tiger, and the next Year of the Tiger will occur in 2034.
Chinese New Year begins with the second new moon after the winter solstice (usually in late January or February). It is a 15-day festival that culminates two weeks later with the celebration of the Lantern Festival, marking the full moon.
For the Lantern Festival, people gather to admire a variety of lighted, colored lanterns, appreciate the full moon, set off fireworks, and watch lion and dragon dances.
Quick and Easy Lantern Crafts for Year of the Tiger
This article contains nine printable templates you can use to make your own lanterns. These patterns are decorated to look like tigers in honor of the Year of the Tiger.
How to Print the Templates
These templates are all sized for 8.5" x 11" paper. At the end of each section, you will see a link to a PDF document that contains the relevant template.
1. Cut Paper Tiger Lantern
This is the first template in the document link below, and it has two pages you can print. The second one, colored orange, is a pattern for making the lantern itself. If you haven’t made a cut paper Chinese lantern before, you can find a good tutorial in this article: "How to Make Unique Chinese Lanterns."
Once you are finished making the lantern, cut out the handle that is printed on the previous page and attach it to the top of the lantern. Once you have made the lantern itself, you can cut out the facial features on the page and attach them to the lantern.
This pattern also has a circular charm to attach so that it hangs from the bottom of the lantern. The charm has the Chinese character for "tiger" written on it. Cut out the two circles and place them back to back. Take a length of string or yarn about four inches long and glue it between the two circles, using enough glue to attach the circles to each other as well. Then, attach the other end of the string to the bottom of the lantern.
PDF: Cut Paper Tiger Lantern Template (see pages one and two)
2. Tiger Faces Lantern
This is an even simpler version of the lantern above. The top and bottom borders feature small tiger faces and the Chinese character for the word "tiger."
Here, you also print out the template and cut the paper as shown. For this one, you don't need to attach any facial features to the lantern.
PDF: Tiger Faces Lantern Template (see pages three and four)
3. Paper Globe Tiger Lantern
For this lantern, you need to start with a paper lantern you can purchase. The one shown here is an 11-inch round orange lantern. The one in the photo comes in a lantern package along with a yellow, and red lantern, which you can also hang to add a festive air. You can also use these 10-inch orange lanterns, which come in a pack of five.
To assemble this lantern, take the rectangular metal piece that comes with it and insert it through the top of the lantern. The metal piece has two protuberances that will fit into two holes in the plastic ring at the bottom of the lantern. Once you have those in place, stretch the lantern upwards until you can fit the top of the metal piece under the plastic rim at the top of the lantern. I usually find I have to bend the metal piece into a loose "C" shape to fit it under the rim.
Once the lantern is assembled, you can cut out the facial pieces and attach them to the lantern as shown. I used tape, but you may be able to use glue as well. I find that the glue sticks don’t work that well because the surface is rather slick. Liquid Elmer’s would work better.
PDF: Paper Globe Tiger Lantern Template (see page five)
4–9. Cylinder Tiger Lanterns
These lanterns are super simple to make, but they look pretty impressive when lit up. Simply print out one of the pages, then form it into a cylinder and glue along the line indicated. You can use plain paper, but I really like the look of the ones made with parchment paper.
The Chinese character you see is the word for "tiger."
To light the lanterns, use a small electric candle—never a flame—since these are made of paper. You can use an electric tea light, but I found that these tap lights gave a stronger light, which enables people to see the detail of the lantern more clearly.
The PDF below includes six different templates to choose between. You can make just one . . . or make all six!
Folktale: Origin of the Lantern Festival
Once upon a time, the Jade Emperor decreed that a certain town should be burnt to the ground because the people there had killed his goose. When the people found out, they sent a large group of old men down the road where they met a young woman in a bright red dress riding a donkey. She was the Fire Goddess. They begged her to have mercy on their town, and though she was touched by their plight, she told them she had to obey orders. However, she gave them a copy of her orders to present to their Emperor to see if he could find a way out of their destruction.
Advised by the local fortuneteller, the Emperor learned that the Fire Goddess loved sweet rice balls. They hatched a plan to make the dish to please the goddess, and to hang lanterns, light bonfires, and put on fireworks displays so that the Jade Emperor would think that the town was on fire and that his orders had been carried out.
It all worked out just as they had planned. The Fire Goddess was delighted with the gift of sweet rice balls, and the Jade Emperor looked down on the city, saw the lights and fires, and was satisfied that the city had been burned. Since that time, people hang lanterns, light fires, and set off fireworks in commemoration of the plan that succeeded in saving their city.
Additional Facts About the Lantern Festival
- Themes: Peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation
- Lanterns and riddles: People decorate their houses with colorful lanterns, and often these lanterns have riddles written on them. Whoever is able to answer a riddle receives a small gift.
- Foods: The traditional foods to serve are sweet rice balls (tang yuan), which are often stuffed with things like sweet red beans, dates, lotus seed, coconut, peanuts, or sesame seeds. These round balls signify wholeness and unity in the family.
Four Lantern Riddles
It is traditional to attach riddles to the lanterns. Those who can answer the riddles will be given a small gift.
Here are some riddles you can attach to your lanterns. See if others can guess the answers.
When you cry, she cries.
When you laugh, she laughs.
When you ask her who she is,
She says, "You know."
It looks green,
But it opens red.
What you eat is red,
But what you spit out is black.
Hard at work day and night,
It counts the numbers over and over.
Although it counts all its life,
It never gets past 12.
Branches grow on its head;
It wears spotted clothes.
Not a donkey or a horse,
It runs like the wind.
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Lantern Festival Holiday
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Chinese New Year
- Moonbeams, Dumplings, & Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities & Recipes, by Nina Simonds
- Chinese New Year: What is it and how is it celebrated? - BBC
More than a billion people across the world will be celebrating Lunar New Year 2022 on 1 February.
- Top 5 Chinese New Year Legends and Stories
Why do the Chinese wear red during Chinese New Year? How did the name for fifteenth night celebrations come about? These legends explain.
- Year of the Tiger
Information on the lifestyle, characteristics, and personality of those born during the Chinese year of the Tiger.
© 2021 Adele Jeunette