Handmade Christmas

Handmade Christmas

I've written before about using popcorn and cranberries to decorate your tree. Now, I want to talk about three simple, inexpensive paper ornaments you can make, on your own or with kids (8 and up).

German Bells

This is a traditional German paper tree decoration. This one is simpler though, especially for tiny hands. You start with a square of paper. I really do mean a square, and at least at first, try a larger square, say six inches or so. I'd practice on scratch paper first, and then, once you've make three or so successfully, try using fancier paper, perhaps origami paper, or imitation parchment, or rice paper. You can decorate the bells with a small bead, or perhaps a little glitter. Alternatively, you can draw lines and patterns on the paper (think about a metalic pen) before folding the paper. Some Elmer's glue, and a needle and thread come in handy as well. Here's a very clear set of instructions from paper crafter Ann Martin (she made the bell in the picture, too).

German Paper Stars

These very popular Christmas tree ornaments are made by weaving together four strips of paper. The stars have a number of names; Folded Paper Stars, German Stars or German Star Ornaments, Swedish Stars, Froebel's Stars, Christmas Stars, Origami Stars, Star Ornaments, Ribbon Star. They aren't origami (origami is Japanese, and is based on folding a single piece of paper). They also aren't Moravian stars, though you'll often see them called Moravian stars. Moravian stars are made using a different method, they're older, and they have a lot more points. These paper star ornaments were invented by Friedrich Fröbel . Fröbel was a nineteenth century German educator (he lived from April 21, 1782–June 21, 1852). Fröbel was a bit of an educational pioneer, who believed strongly that early education needed to involve activity as well as sitting and listening. He created the stars because they embody a number of geometric and mathematical concepts, and let children make something. Here's a site with instructions for making German stars; here's a second site that's includes a downloadable, printable .pdf. And since watching someone make these makes it much simpler, two YouTube videos: video 1, video 2.

Star image credit: Kate Ter Haar.

Japanese Cranes

In Japanese tradition the crane is a symbol of long-life, fidelity, and contentment. They are often given as good wishes at weddings, or when a baby is born. There's a special term for a group of one thousand origami paper cranes held together by strings. There's a tradition in Japan that says if you create a thousand origami cranes you may be granted a wish by a crane. The traditional wishes in the stories are for a fortunate life, or a long life or to be cured, miraculously of an illness or injury. The crane is fairly easy to create if you practice, even for the little hands of an eight year old. Again, practice on a larger paper, at least six inches, and make sure it's absolutely square. It's fun to perch a few cranes made with brightly colored paper in the limbs of a tree, or you can hand them from strings using some thread and a needle—or adapt the Japanese tradition of stringing a thousand cranes, and twining the string in and about the braches of your tree.

Here's a video. Here's a fairly clear set of step-by-step set of directions.pdf you can print and follow along. If you're making these with a child, I suggest practicing on your own, then working with the little one.