We’re sure you’re used to seeing round red lanterns adorn houses and shopfronts every Chinese New Year. And we’re sure you’re looking forward to your many angpows this year. Have you thought of connecting the two though? Linda Lee, a homemaker based in Subang, puts her angpows to good use by making lanterns from angpow packets. And these lanterns are so gorgeous they’re out of this world.
Making the lanterns usually requires a lot of planning as one must know the exact number of angpow packets needed for each lantern. (Image: Zoe Liew)
In The Beginning…
Twenty years ago, Linda had taken her children to their godparents’ house for a visit. Seeing the beautiful lanterns made by her children’s godmother, Mrs Chow, it inspired her to make her own lanterns. She reminisces, “My first lantern was very simple. It was just a ball. Clipped, clipped, clipped [the angpows together]. And the tassel at the end.”
Linda also turns angpows into decorative ornaments such as origami fishes and butterflies. (Image: Zoe Liew)
Ever since that fateful visit, she has been making lanterns out of angpows for her family members and friends. Linda also creates 40 to 50 lanterns for Sam Poh Thong Temple every Chinese New Year as an act of charity. She also fashions decorative ornaments such as Chinese fans and fishes from angpows.
The mother of three also credits her late father-in-law for his encouragement. "He would say, ‘You fail once, you try to make it better. One day, you’ll definitely be successful. For the past few years [before he passed away], he’d say to me, 'Where is the new lantern?'"
So... How Much Does It Cost?
When asked how much each lantern is priced, she elaborates, “It depends on the amount of angpows you use and the amount of time you use to make the lantern.” Though many people find her lanterns admirable, some have expressed surprise at the prices of the lanterns. "Some people said, '28 ringgit! So expensive.'"
According to Linda, a large lantern such as The Majestic Lantern must have tassels. We agree. It just wouldn’t look right otherwise. (Image: Zoe Liew)
If you only knew how much time and how many angpow packets each lantern costs Linda, RM28 for an artfully made lantern does not seem costly at all. “The large one outside my house took me three days to do. The big and complicated ones will cost 88 to 100 ringgit. I used 102 angpows and tassels for that. All these fans hanging on the walls and the flower lanterns took me a couple of hours. I’m charging 28 ringgit for each.”
Accessories such as pearls and flowers give the lanterns a unique beauty. (Image: Zoe Liew)
For this Chinese New Year season, Linsa has sold RM300 worth of lanterns. She clarifies humbly, “But I’m not doing this for profit. I love it when people are happy. They’re happy, I’m happy.”
So Much Creativity We Can't Believe It
The lanterns she crafts are uncommon and varied in design. Some look like crowns or balls. Others look like temples. And others bear resemblance to flowers.
A word to the wise: keep your lanterns indoors and they'll last for five years. (Image: Zoe Liew)
But where does she get all the inspiration for each lantern from? She credits the lantern magazines she peruses occasionally at Mayfair Handicraft for her ideas. Linda is also blessed with an incredible memory. “I have a photographic memory. I just remember. Sometimes I take a picture and I just do the lantern based on the picture.” The artwork and the designs of the angpows also give her a rush of inspiration.
Linda also looks to YouTube and Pinterest for inspiration. (Image: Zoe Liew)
Good Times, Bad Times, And That One CNY Reunion Dinner She’ll Always Remember...
Looking back on the past 20 years of making lanterns, she remembers a certain CNY dinner, “My bro-in-law and all the relatives came. We were playing blackjack after reunion dinner and I think I hadn’t put enough glue on the lantern. One of the parts dropped off. And my brother-in-law said, 'Why so flimsy ah
?' Everybody saw what happened.” She laughs, “It was so embarrassing.”
There are a few lanterns that she’s immensely proud of though. Creating the Lotus Flower lantern was not easy. “I made it for my mum. You ask me to do again I will think twice lah
. But when I finished it, I really had a sense like I can’t believe I completed this.”
The infamous Lotus Flower lantern. (Image: Linda Lee)
The amount of effort and detail that go into the creation of each lantern is truly jaw-dropping. One lantern, which she calls the Temple of Peace, resembles Kek Lok Si Temple and has eight levels. 60 angpow packets are needed. Another lantern, aptly named The Ball of Prosperity, requires 36 red envelopes and 18 faux flowers with pearl centres attached.
From left to right: Ball of Prosperity, Royal Lantern, and Temple of Peace. (Image: Linda Lee)
Superstitions That Will Have You Reaching For Angpow Lanterns Too…
The symbolism behind the lanterns and other CNY ornaments is interesting. Each lantern must be made of even numbers of angpow packets to attract prosperity.
The Chinese also believe that red lanterns can be used to avoid bad luck. These red lanterns are also signs of harmony and prosperity in our homes. “And the lanterns must be red. Ong mali
!” Linda laughs. “But it cannot be completely red. Too much red can make people angry. Gold is good too.” As she makes lanterns, she is careful to ensure that the gold details are not hidden from the viewer.
Hanging a fan also draws good feng shui.(Image: Zoe Liew)
Each lantern is named for the blessing the recipient wishes for. “The Flower Blossom is named so that whoever receives it will blossom like a flower. Their health will blossom. Their fortune will blossom. Peace. Family. They will get everything they wish for.”
And it’s totally working. Her lanterns are bringing good fortune and prosperity to the recipients. “One of my friends just bought some lanterns from me last year and she said her business bloomed and went up.”
On the Flower Blossom lantern, Linda takes extra care to make sure the words of blessings and wishes for friendship, fortune, health and so on are visible. (Image: Zoe Liew)
Thus far, Linda has only made angpow lanterns during CNY but she’d be willing to fulfill any requests or orders for other occasions.
So, if you’re looking for some unique angpow lanterns to decorate your home this Chinese New Year or during other seasons, just reach out to Linda Lee, the lantern maker at firstname.lastname@example.org
or message her on Facebook
... or you could make your own in this simple DIY that Linda has done especially for Rojak Daily