If you want to add a bit of pizzazz or perhaps even a hint of romance to your celebration, consider using colorful lanterns as part of the decorations. Inexpensive varieties, made with paper, nylon or lightweight metal, give subtle glows either using candles or tiny light bulbs. Below is a brief history of the oldest lanterns and three of the most popular styles in use today.
Origin of Lanterns
Long before Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, the Chinese were using lanterns made of bamboo frames and paper, lit by a single candle. The first recorded evidence of lanterns goes back to 230 BC and the Ming Dynasty in China. The Emperor ordered paper lanterns to honor Buddha and the new temple he was building.
Over the centuries paper lanterns made their way around the globe. The Hispanic community adopted the lanterns, calling them "luminaria." To this day they are used in Christmas celebrations. In the United States, lanterns are a favorite choice for outdoor parties and romantic "dinners for two."
Chinese Style Paper Lanterns
The original Chinese paper lanterns were usually round or what's known as cocoon style. The latter is an oval shape with an opening at both ends. Both have horizontal ribbing, usually made of bamboo or other light wood, which defines the shape. The paper is attached to the ribbing. The lanterns are sold flat. A metal insert allows you to expand the lantern and fit it over a light bulb. The lamps are colorful enough to be used on their own for daytime parties. Like most paper products, the lanterns aren't waterproof, but they are also quite lovely indoors.
Luminary Bag Lanterns
Luminary bag lanterns are simple, fire retardant paper bag lanterns that are lit by candles, tea lights or tiny battery operated LED lights. The name comes from the Mexican word "luminaria," meaning light. Since they have no cords to worry about, luminary bags may be used on tabletops at more formal gatherings or strategically placed on the sand for a beach celebration. Luminaries are lightweight, so they need to be weighted down in breezy conditions. Sand, pebbles, rocks or any other non-flammable substance may be used to keep them from blowing away. These lanterns come in your choice of colors, including a line that offers cut out snowflakes, stars, butterflies or doves.
Mini Hanging Candle Lanterns
These tiny versions of the old fashioned hurricane lamps come in an assortment of colors and styles and may also double as party favors. Like the luminaries, the mini candle lanterns are lit by single candles, tea lights or the LED lights. Hang them on your balcony or use them as part of the table centerpieces. The lanterns are usually made of painted metal, have decorative cut outs and may or may not have glass panels. Instead of using lights, opt for putting tiny flower arrangements inside the lanterns for an entirely different look.
Look for cheap lanterns online to find more lantern styles and options.