Chinese Red Envelopes





How to Make a Chinese New Year Lantern from Red Envelopes

Chinese New Year is approaching and it is often decorated with red lanterns. Here is a fun, Chinese New Year craft that only needs a few supplies. Here’s how to make a Chinese New Year Lantern from red envelopes. This is a great activity to do with kids.

Red lanterns symbolize a wish and hope for a bright future for the beginning of the lunar year. They also represent prosperity.

My kids made these Chinese New Year lanterns in school – both elementary and high school. Think of it as a simplified origami with a stapler. This is a great activity for kids.

Chinese New Year is typically full of traditions – food, habits, and my kids’ favourite – the lucky red envelopes. Young or single children will receive lucky red envelopes, also known as hongbao (Mandarin) or lai see (Cantonese), which contain money. They are given to children from married relatives – so parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents or close family friends.

I have done a few Chinese New Year crochet projects. You can read about that here. Last year I crocheted a clementine tree.


Red envelopes are readily available here in Asian stores. Typically they are sold in packages. You can even get them for free from the bank here. So get a bunch and make a Chinese New Year Lantern from red envelopes.

Chinese New Year red envelopes are usually beautifully decorated with gold and perhaps even the animal of the current year. These colourful red envelopes make beautiful lanterns for decoration.

Red envelopes come in various rectangular sizes. To do this, you’ll want them to be all the same size.



The first thing you need to do is prepare all your red envelopes. This will involve a bunch of folding so that you have crease lines. The crease lines are to help show you where to staple.

Fold your red envelope in half horizontally (hot dog style).

You will now have a centre crease line.

Turn your red envelope back up vertically and fold the top corners into the middle crease line, creating diagonal creases.

Do this for all 4 corners.


Now that your red envelopes have all been folded, you are ready to make the lantern.

First, divide your envelopes into 3 equal piles. Since I had 15 envelopes, I had 3 piles of 5. One pile will be for the top, one pile for the middle and one pile for the bottom. There is an equal number of red envelopes in each section.

Take 2 envelopes and place them back to back, lining up the top corners.

Staple the 2 red envelopes together by stapling in that diagonal crease you created by folding earlier.

Staple the third envelope in the same manner and continue around until you have used up that first pile. Staple the last envelope (the fifth in my case) to the first one so that it makes a complete circle.

Repeat the process with a second pile to make the bottom. You will do this in the exact same way.

If you staple in the same way – the top 2 corners, the design on the envelope will be upside down and so when the lantern is fully assembled, it will be a mirror image of the top. If you decide to staple the 2 bottom corners, your design will be right side up and matching the top. It is entirely up to you. For me, it depends on the design on the envelope.

Before doing the final assembly, now is the time to attach the yarn. Feed a length through the top hole and tape on the inside. to secure. You can tie a loop so that you can hang it.

For the bottom, you can feed beads through the yarn and attach it by feeding it through the centre hole of the bottom section and securing it with tape.

You could also decorate the bottom with a tassle. Here’s a video on how to make a tassel if you’d like to add it to the bottom.

Now you are going to attach the top and bottom portions together with that third pile of red envelopes.

This time, you are going to orient the red envelopes horizontally. You will still staple in those diagonal creases in the corners, but the middle red envelope will be sideways. You’ll staple the top part of the lantern to the top 2 corners and the bottom of the lantern to the bottom 2 corners.

Continue all the way around until it is completely enclosed.


You can easily be modified based on the number of red envelopes that you have. Just make sure you have a multiple of 3 as you will increase each section (top, middle and bottom) equally.

Also, the size of the envelopes can change the look, as well as the size.

Here is a Chinese New Year Lantern made from 12 red envelopes. You will notice that these envelopes are not as long and so it forms a ball-like lantern.

Here is a Chinese New Year Lantern made from 18 red envelopes. Again, these are smaller envelopes. This time, we oriented it sideways and instead of putting the hanger in the top, we used a single hole punch and put the hanger in the middle section. The result is a wheel shape.

So the front part that is facing you in the photo is actually the top section.

This is a great activity to do with kids. As mentioned, my own children made them in school during Chinese New Year. The craft is rather forgiving. If the staple didn’t work, remove it and try again. Just be careful not to tear the envelope or create a big hole.

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