DIY Christmas Ornaments Inspired by World Cultures

DIY Christmas Ornaments Inspired by World Cultures | Multicultural Kid Blogs

Making your own Christmas ornaments is a fun family activity while preparing for and enjoying the Christmas season. Here at Multicultural Kid Blogs, we aim to raise global citizens who celebrate diversity while recognizing the universal values that connect us. The following are five different ornaments you and your kids can make, either borrowing from an established Christmas tradition or inspired by cultural handicrafts & symbols. All of these ornaments symbolize universal values that engender love, peace, and goodwill – values that transcend all borders; values that embrace the spirit of Christmas.

Denmark

Danish paper pleated heart Christmas ornaments | Multicultural Kid Blogs

Julehjerte are a traditional Danish Christmas tree ornament made from interwoven red and white paper, the same colors as the Danish flag. Jule means Christmas, and hjert means heart, giving us Pleated Christmas Hearts in English. The oldest known julehjerte were made by Hans Christian Andersen in 1860. Children in Denmark make these at school and many families set time aside to make these as a family Christmas tradition every year. This heart-shaped ornament is a wonderful symbol of love and interconnection.

To make Julehjerte, you’ll need two contrasting colors of paper, scissors, and the template. Traditionally, they are made with red and white paper. The paper should be sturdy enough to hold its shape and hold candies, but not so stiff that there is no flexibility in the weaving. The one above was made with scrapbooking paper that wasn’t as stiff as cardstock. Use the template found here and get a little extra help with the tutorial found here. I’d recommend trying one first before making one with your kids – it’s fairly easy once you get the hang of it, but it might seem a little confusing at first. Once complete, kids especially enjoy filling them with candy!

Japan

Japanese ornaments | Multicultural Kid Blogs

A Japanese legend promises to grant a wish to anyone who folds 1000 paper cranes. Cranes are considered holy creatures in Japanese culture and are traditionally given as gifts to newborns and newlyweds as a charm for happiness, long life, and prosperity.  What draws our family most to these cranes is that in their understated beauty, they also represent peace. There are temples in Japan that have eternal flames for peace and people often donate coils of paper cranes to add to the prayer for peace.

What brought origami cranes to my attention many years ago is the story of Sadako and the 1000 paper cranes. This story is based on the true story of a young Japanese girl who contracted leukemia as a result of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. When hospitalized, she begins making these cranes with the aim of folding 1000 in hopes of being granted her wish for health. She passes away before having a chance to fold all one thousand of them, and her classmates fold the rest, to be buried with her. It is a sad story, but one that has inspired many around the world to pray for peace, with the crane as its symbol.

This is one of our family’s favorite Christmas ornaments – we have a few in the family tree, large and small, and each of my daughters has one in her bedroom tree. We have made them and given them out over the years to our friends and family for their Christmas trees. They can either sit on the branch or be threaded to hang. All you need to make is a square piece of paper, some patience, and a tutorial. These are not the simplest of origami creations. I recommend you try one out first, then follow along with a tutorial with your kids. There is a picture tutorial here and a video tutorial here.

Mexico

Mexican Felt Poinsettia Christmas ornaments | Multicultural Kid Blogs

In Mexico, poinsettias are known as ‘Flores de Noche Buena’ or Flowers of the Night. They are native to Central America where they flower over the winter. There is a lovely Mexican legend about the poinsettia, making it a beautiful symbol of love, generosity, and gratitude.

“Long ago, there was a young girl and boy, who were very poor. They looked forward to Christmas, with the many celebrations, parades and the beautiful village manger. It was tradition to bring gifts to the baby Jesus during Christmas Eve, but the young children had nothing to give. Though embarrassed at having so little, they wanted to show their love and so picked a bouquet of weeds growing by the roadside. As they placed their bouquet in the manger, the green top leaves turned into bright, red petals and the manger became surrounded by beautiful star-like flowers we know as poinsettias.”

You can read the legend of the poinsettia in Tomie dePaola’s lovely picture book and learn more about Christmas celebrations in Mexico at Kid World Citizen.

Poinsetta ornament Collage

To make this poinsettia ornament, you will need red & green felt, gold or yellow tissue paper, ribbon, a piece of cardboard, and glue (I used a hot glue gun). I used the template and mostly followed the tutorial found here. I did not cut holes in the felt or use a pipe cleaner. I used a dab of hot glue to attach crumpled balls of gold tissue paper, and as it was bonding, bunched up the felt around the center by pinching the bottom (see photo, top right). This can be done with white glue but would take longer. Then I cut a circle from a cereal box and glued it to the back. Ribbon was affixed to the cardboard.

Ghana

Adinkra Salt Dough Ornaments | Multicultural Kid Blogs

These ornaments are inspired by Adinkra cloth – a traditional Ashanti cloth from Ghana.  Adinkra are not associated with Christmas in Ghana, but the symbols are so rich with meaning and culture, they are a great way to incorporate more diversity into Christmas ornaments. Many adinkra symbols can be used for this project, and you can find dozens here. I chose the Adinkra symbol for Unity. It is called Nkosonkonson and is associated with this proverb: “We are linked together like a chain; we are linked in life.” This symbol is a reminder that the unity of a community can be realized if we see ourselves as responsible to each other. It portrays the strength found in unity and the connection found in interdependence.

Adinkra inspired ornaments Collage

To make an Adinkra stamp, you’ll need this Adinkra ornament template, craft foam, thick corrugated cardboard, scissors, and glue (we used hot glue). Cut out the “unity” adinkra template and trace over the craft foam. It’s easier to trace the pattern by gluing it first with a glue stick onto the foam. This way the pattern doesn’t move, and it doesn’t matter if the paper stays on, that can be the side glued to the cardboard. Also, as it’s just going to be a stamp, if your kids find it tricky to cut out the white from the middle of the template (especially with the foam), cut the symbol in half horizontally, cut out the white, and glue back together onto the cardboard (as seen above).

To make the ornaments, you’ll need salt dough (flour, salt, water), a cookie cutter or glass, your stamp, 2 contrasting colors of paint, a fine paintbrush, and thread. First, make a batch of salt dough. We used this recipe, and cut it in half with plenty to spare (which we used to make salt dough gift tags). Roll out the dough to 1/4″ thickness and cut out into circles. A 3″ diameter cookie cutter was used to make ours, but you could also use the rim of a glass. Stamp the adinkra into the dough – push it in hard, or even go over it with a rolling pin. Skewer a hole at the top, and bake at 200 for approximately 1 1/2 hours, turning the ornaments over halfway through. If you want to bake them faster and don’t mind them browning, you can increase the temperature to 350.

Once baked and cooled, paint the background first (we used white, and needed two coats). Once dry, paint in the adinkra symbol in a contrasting color. Decorate as desired. You can also paint the word “unity” on the back, or glue the proverb included on the template.

Philippines

Filipino Parol Christmas ornament | Multicultural Kid Blogs

Christmas in the Philippines is celebrated for months, starting in September, and the most iconic symbol of the Filipino Christmas spirit is the parol. These star-shaped lanterns are found outside homes and along village & city streets for months leading up to Christmas, their importance is comparable to Christmas trees in Western cultures. The parol represents the star of Bethlehem that guided the Three Wise Men. Making, 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 in the shape of a five-pointed star. They are now made in a variety of materials, shapes, and sizes. These ornaments are based on the traditional five-pointed star shape with tassels. Since we can’t light them, the use of translucent paper and yellow tissue paper gives a bit of an effect especially if in front of Christmas lights (though make sure your Christmas lights do not generate much heat!). Take a look at photographs of parols here.

You can read more about Christmas in the Philippines at Open Wide the World.

Parol ornament Collage 1

To make your own parol ornament, you will need two 12″ strips of cardboard * (we cut ours from a cereal box), glue, paint, a ruler, scissors, ribbon to hang it, and tissue paper (two 7″ squares, yellow and contrasting color + more for fringe) or a coffee filter and yellow tissue paper. There are two variations pictured above as to the front of the parols, one with tissue paper, and the other with a painted coffee filter. If you want to include the creativity of painting swirls of color, use a coffee filter. By using thin paper, Christmas tree lights can shine through. The back of both parols is made with yellow tissue paper to increase the feeling of a lighted lantern.

*The width of your strips is up to you – in the parols pictured above, the blue one is made with a 3/4″ wide strip, and the red one with 1cm wide strip.

Start by painting the coffee filter if you are using it. While it dries, paint your cardboard strips. Once they are dry, measure two inches from the end of each strip.

Parol ornament Collage 2

Fold the strips accordion style. Glue the two strips together, each end firmly glued inside the other, keeping the folds all at the same 2″ length. You can adjust this folded circular shape into a five-pointed star. Determine which two points will be the bottom of your star and cut out a notch in each, which is where the tassels will be inserted.

Parol ornament Collage 3

Put a bead of glue all around the edge of the star, and turn it over onto a square of yellow tissue paper. You will likely need to adjust the strips to stay in a star form, which is fine – you can wipe away the excess glue or let it dry. While the glue is drying, make your cutout pattern for the front of the parol, like when you are papercutting a snowflake. Fold the coffee filter or colorful tissue paper in half diagonally (to form a triangle), then in half again. Cut a few shapes along the inner edges – be sure to stay within 1″ of the point. (See middle picture above). Fold in half again, and cut another small shape along that edge – again stay within an inch (See the right picture above). Unfold your paper and admire your design.

Parol ornament Collage 4

By now, hopefully, the glued yellow tissue paper is dry. Cut out along the edges of the cardboard star, cutting away excess tissue paper. Now glue your cutout pattern (coffee filter or tissue paper) onto the star. While that dries, make two tassels: fold a piece of tissue paper in half – its length will be the length of your tassel. Cut in strips stopping before reaching the folded edge. Curl into itself, creating a tassel. Once the parol is dry, once again cut away the excess paper from the edges. Put a dab of glue on the end of each tassel and insert them in the notches. Glue a loop of ribbon to the top (we used hot glue) and hang! It’s lovely to see the light shine through.

Parol ornament Collage

I hope you enjoy a wonderful Christmas and holiday season filled with light, love, peace, hope, unity, and gratitude – at home and in the world.

More Christmas Inspiration from MKB:

Christmas Around the World Activity Pack

Multilingual Christmas Printables

Christmas Ornaments Across the World

Christmas Desserts Around the World

Christmas Music in Different Languages

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Marie-Claude is parent of two teen girls. Over the years, they have immersed themselves virtually in various cultures. This year they have been exploring the cultures of West Africa, which is being chronicled on her blog at www.mariespastiche.blogspot.com.

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12 thoughts on “DIY Christmas Ornaments Inspired by World Cultures”

  1. Wow Marie!!! This is indeed amazing, and I can tell you dedicated a lot time, and effort into this post. 🙂 I’ve been wanting to do something with my child, and the 2 little girls that I babysit, and this seems perfect!!!! I’m going to save this post in a pdf file, and print it out for reference. You rock!!! Gracias 🙂

  2. I have found many great projects to work on with my children! Thank you. Getting them away from electronics and using their creativity and imagination is easier when there are fun projects to complete. I really love the book, ” Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day” by author Susan Newman, Ph.D. http://www.susannewmanphd.com/ It is a parents’ assistant in creating a warm, fun family environment children will recall happily.

  3. I have fond memories of making Julehjerte, as part of a Swedish Christmas actually, and now have several more fun multicultural ornaments to try with my little one, thanks to this super awesome post! You’ve given purpose to the mid-November snow we’ve been experiencing. 🙂

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