With this collection of DIY paper ornaments, you can dip your toes into the holidays as seen around the globe. Jane Drew reports
Making your own ornaments is a fun bonding activity for the whole family to enjoy in the lead-up to Christmas. And this year, rather than sticking to your own traditions, why not draw on some of your neighbours’ customs? This will make the 2020 holidays look a little different in your home, and you’ll be encouraging your kids to celebrate diversity, while recognising the universal values that connect us.
We’ve picked out three paper-based ornaments for you to make from Russia, the Philippines and beyond, all of which borrow from an established Christmas tradition. These ornaments symbolise universal values that engender love, peace and goodwill – values that transcend all borders, while embracing the spirit of Christmas.
Matryoshkas are wooden Russian dolls that come in a set; they are carved in decreasing sizes so they can nest inside one another. The first nesting doll sets were made in the late 1800s and since then, this toy’s popularity has spread far beyond Eastern Europe.
Matryoshkas often depict women in traditional Eastern European dress with headscarves; however, there are sets of animals, cartoon characters and now even politicians.
Many sets feature the same design, painted on a different scale, but in others all the dolls are different. You can always buy a set, but if you paint it yourself, you can add educational and/ or personalised elements. At “Christmastime”, you might create a Matryoshka set of your own family, the Nativity, Santa and his elves, etc.
To make a very simple paper Matryoshka set, you will need four sheets of construction paper, one sheet of decorative wrapping paper, a marker and glue.
Cut out three squares of paper, small, medium and large. Fold the first square into a triangle. Fold in the right corner and then the left corner. Glue the front piece of the triangular-shaped top down onto the folded corners. Tuck the back piece of the triangle-shaped top into the pocket of the folded corners shape. This forms a little nesting-shaped cup that will stand up on the table.
Cut out the shape of a semicircle from the wrapping paper to form the doll’s dress. Glue this on with the flat edge at the bottom. Cut out the shape of a circle from the remaining sheet of construction paper and glue this onto the curved section of the dress. This will be the doll’s face, which you can draw on with a marker.
Repeat these steps and create two more dolls using the medium and large-shaped squares as your starting point. Once the glue has dried on each doll, you can nest them inside each other.
In the Philippines, parols are hung outside homes and along village streets in the lead-up to Christmas. These star-shaped, tasselled lanterns represent the Star of Bethlehem that guided the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem. In a wider sense, lighting and decorating a parol is an expression of faith, hope, goodwill and the triumph of light over darkness.
Parols are traditionally made from bamboo and rice paper though they are now made in a variety of materials, shapes and sizes. What’s important is that you use thin paper to allow light to shine through, creating the feel of a lighted lantern.
To make your own parol, you will need two 30cm strips of cardboard (each about 2cm wide), two 18cm squares of yellow tissue paper and one 18cm square of coffee filter paper, plus glue, red paint, a ruler, scissors and a ribbon.
Start by painting the coffee filter paper. While it dries, paint the cardboard strips. Once they are dry, measure two inches from the end of each strip. Fold the strips accordion style. Glue the two strips together, each end firmly glued inside the other, keeping the folds all at the same 5cm length. Adjust this folded circular shape into a five-pointed star. Determine which two points will be the bottom of the star and cut out a notch in each, which is where you will insert the tassels.
Put a bead of glue all around the edge of the star, and turn it over on to the square of yellow tissue paper. Readjust the strips so they stay in a star shape. While the glue is drying, make the cut-out pattern for the front of the parol – fold the coffee filter paper in half diagonally to form a triangle, then in half again. Cut a few shapes along the inner edges, staying within 2cm of the point. Fold in half again, and cut another small shape along that edge, again staying within 2cm.
By now, the glued yellow tissue paper will be dry. Cut away the excess tissue paper from the edges of the cardboard star. Now glue the cut-out coffee filter paper onto the front of the star. While that dries, make the two tassels. Fold the remaining square of tissue paper in half – its length will be the length of one tassel. Cut in strips stopping before reaching the folded edge, so that the tissue paper curls. Once the parol is dry, cut away the excess coffee filter paper from the edges. Put a dab of glue on the end of each tassel and insert them into the notches.
Finally, glue a loop of ribbon to the top of the parol and hang it somewhere that allows the light to shine through.
Christmas is all about giving and few things symbolise that better than Santa Claus, with his red suit, long white beard, jolly laugh and sack full of presents. This ‘American’ Santa, who drops down the chimney on Christmas Eve, has been adopted across the globe but within Europe, ‘he’ comes in many different guises – and he doesn’t always show up on December 24.
In Russia, for instance, Ded Moroz (translated as Father Frost) visits the homes of good children on New Year’s Eve; in Italy, La Befana – a good-natured witch who flies around on a broomstick – drops in on January 5. The traditional British Father Christmas wears a hooded green cloak and a wreath of holly or ivy, and he carries a staff. His French counterpart Père Noël prefers a long red cloak to a red suit.
To make an origami Santa, you will need one 20cm square of paper (with a red and a white side), plus a little glue.
Place the paper on a table with the red side facing upward. Fold the paper in half, from bottom to top and from left to right. You will now have a neat cross. Flip the paper over to the other side (the white side). Fold the bottom edge up to meet the horizontal crease and unfold. Fold the left edge to meet the vertical central crease and unfold. Fold the bottom right corner up to the top left corner, then unfold.
Rotate the paper so that the diagonal line is vertically centred and flip the paper over to the other side. Fold the bottom section up and unfold. Fold the bottom corner up to the previous crease and unfold.
Fold the bottom corner up to the crease you just made. Unfold. Fold the bottom corner up again to the crease you just made. Flip the bottom section up. Flip it up again, and fold it up once more.
Flip the paper over to the other side, and rotate it so that the folded corner is now at the top. Bring the top left and right sections in towards the middle. Collapse the top section down and fold well. Fold the bottom corner up to the top corner.
Fold the top corner down, leaving a small gap between what will be Santa’s hat and beard. Fold another small section down, creating Santa’s moustache. Flip the paper over to the other side. Fold the bottom right corner up to the top corner.
Fold the bottom left section up to the top corner. Fold the right edge to the centre, folding all of the layers. Fold the left section the same way. Fold the bottom corner up a little bit and glue the back down. Your origami Santa is complete!