Contemplative Photography & Reflections

Homemade Holiday Traditions, Part 2: The Gift of Light

My husband is fond of remarking that our home is like Santa’s workshop at this time of year. We are an artsy bunch year-round, but I’ve always been a big fan of homemade holiday gifts, making December a busy time in an elfin manner of speaking here on the riverside. It began of necessity when I was staying home with my children and had more time than money, but I have held onto this tradition because it is so gratifying.  

I especially enjoy making lanterns. There are so many great metaphors around candles and light: lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness, letting your light shine, a single candle lighting a thousand more, etc.

This year, I decided to try my hand at making beeswax balloon lanterns, which I hadn’t done in a good ten years. I first discovered these gorgeous lanterns at a Waldorf holiday fair back when my daughter was five and homeschooling. After buying one, I was determined to figure out how to make some on my own. (This was way back in the days before Pinterest!) I found a local beekeeper who sold me a 10-pound block of beeswax, and I set my daughter up with a covered workspace, a hammer, and a screwdriver so she could break the block into small bits for easier melting. (I chipped away at it, too.) The method involves dipping a water-filled balloon into melted beeswax many times to build a shell and then cooling the wax and popping the balloon. The process makes a home smell incredible.

The first year I made balloon lanterns, I created a full moon bonfire scene with tissue paper and mulberry paper. 

This year, I experimented with hearts cut from pressed autumn leaves and embellished by drilling some holes along the top.

I love the creative process! It evolves one step at a time with one idea leading to another. And if I don’t like it, I can just melt it down and start all over again!

If you’d like to try this relaxing craft with an intoxicating fragrance, here are two links to which I refer when making beeswax balloon lanterns: 

I’ve used both the double boiler and the crock pot methods with good results but presently prefer the latter.

Last year, I discovered two kinds of beautiful star lanterns, which became my main holiday gifts. The first is a dodecahedron (12-sided) star lantern:

Here is a link to directions for making the dodecahedron star lanterns: 

The 8-pointed star lanterns below are easier to make, and I fell in love with them when I discovered them last year. Making these lanterns became a favorite way to unwind! I even brought this craft to the classroom and invited my students to paint a sheet of watercolor paper which I folded into a lantern for them.

To view a video showing how to make the eight-pointed star lanterns, click here:

I have become accustomed to saving jars throughout the year to make jar lanterns during the holidays. I am especially fond of salsa jars and peanut butter jars. I tend to improvise with tissue paper, mulberry paper, and colored wax (“kite”) paper and Mod Podge to make jar lanterns. I love repurposing the jars to make something beautiful to give to someone dear.

Last year I discovered another beautiful and oh-so-simple lantern that involves wrapping painted paper around a jar. The best part of this was painting the paper! I covered the still-wet paper with plastic wrap to add some texture.

Finally, here is a string of origami “balloons” (also called “water bombs”) with LED lights tucked inside them that I folded for my daughter from sheet music:

Making holiday gifts may be more time consuming than buying them already made, but I love the way it feels to craft something with my own hands and to breathe into it the energy of love for the intended recipient. There’s just something extra special about a homemade gift  – and making lanterns is another way to bring more light into this world!

If you like my lantern projects and have more money than time, some of them are available for sale through my Etsy shop: 

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss ( with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

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