Parol / Farol / Christmas Lanterns

I have fond memories of that special day each December when aaparollit parols were purchased and hung (with light bulb inside) outside our home. Sometimes it would be just one parol and other years my mom would splurge and get several. Until the 1980’s, she exclusively purchased lanterns made out of papel de japon and bamboo—they were, and still are, my absolute favorite. I personally liked the plain white lanterns though we occasionally got red or green ones to go along with the holiday color scheme. After the season, the parols were thrown out and the next year new ones purchased. There is something so comforting about the fact that they only lasted a few weeks… All that work and then it was discarded… The white parols in this first photo are all home made… we just put them up yesterday and while simple and plebeian, they really signal good things to come in the weeks ahead…

I suppose something so labor-intensive and temporary would do itself in. farol2But then again, we seem to be losing so many craft skills, period. In the 1980’s, more and more vendors started selling plastic, lighted, capiz and other less disposable versions of the classic bamboo parol. Some of these are quite attractive and practical but anyone who has made a parol would perhaps understand that it’s well worth the effort. Several internet sites and a booklet on parols (by Reynaldo Alejandro and Vicente Santos) suggest that the parol is named after the “farol” or Spanish “lantern.” It came to us via Mexico where colorful paper was used to make piñatas and stars. The booklet goes further to suggest that our ancestors used a lighted farol to lead the way to early morning mass (though I wonder how many went up in flames considering the highly incendiary/flammable materials used) and it represents the Star of Bethlehem… It is not certain how long ago these became popular but some famous paintings from the late 1800’s already depict several white parols as part of the scenery…

One of my readers very poignantly requested that I write a post on how to make a parol so that she can hang one in front of her home this Christmas, somewhere on the U.S. east coast. farol3I am by no means a parol expert, and if you google it you will probably find clearer descriptions, but here are my rudimentary instructions. First, make some thin sticks from a medium sized bamboo pole (fresher is better) that you might be able to find at wholesale flower markets or craft shops. Next, tie five sticks into the shape of a star and make two of these forms. Connect the ends of the stars and insert braces inside the star to make it three-dimensional. Once secure, cover this frame with Japanese paper or papel de japon and glue. You can get fancy and add frills, cut-out paper doilies, fringes, tails, etc. If you can purchase a ready-made socket with wiring then it will be easy to put a light bulb inside your parol…just make sure it doesn’t get too hot or the lantern could burst into flames…

Whatever the history, I think of the parol as one of the quintessential “native” farol1the annual parol(s) decorations for the Christmas holidays. It really upsets me that there are so few paper lanterns sold on the streets of Manila these days (I haven’t seen a single one this year!). Perhaps folks are luckier in the province but Manila is overrun with the plastic version, flashing lights, light-roping, and other garish and well, less desirable incarnations. So this year we made our own and while simple, I am extremely happy with them. While paper lanterns may be considered old-fashioned, I think they have tremendous charm that is incredibly unique…


34 Responses

  1. Hi Marketman,

    It was only last night while out that my fiance and i was talking about parol. Since he’s a Jersey bean and not Pinoy, I was trying my best to describe parol to him and how i thought it’s done and how it’s a tradition in the Philippines to hang it in and out of the house during christmas period. I was also mildy hinting how i would love to have one in our house. He did say he’s gonna draw it up and see the best way to tackle the task of making me one (how sweet!).

    I’m so pleased that you posted this. I’m going to replace the ink on my printer so i can print this for him. I’m so excited. Well we’ll see if he can get hold of bamboo first. If he actually find the time to create one for me, i’ll post it on my site and let you know.


  2. mae, you can also use cellophane instead of japanese paper. Spritz with water and when it dries the cellophane gets taut over the bamboo frame…good luck with the parol island in the Jersey islands!

  3. Last Christmas, we had our American scholars race to make the best looking parol with popsicle sticks, glue, papel de japon and magazine pages. Um, the results left much to be desired, but I think it was more the thought that counts in these matters. Don’t know what we’ll make the new batch do this year…

  4. Paper lanterns old-fashioned??? Nah! I admire that you can make your own parols. I couldn’t for the life of me, make a parol even if my life depended on it. :p

  5. Hear that, MM? That’s the resounding chant of your one thousand and foodie fans clamoring for food posts! ;) *foodpostsfoodpostsfoodpostsfoodposts…*

  6. Thanks for your Parol post! I’m going to attempt to make some this Christmas, as they are not available for sale here in Ohio. I love visiting your blog. It reminds me of home.

  7. Marilou, try looking up Monkey Hill antiques in Pennsylvania, I think… apparently they brought in lots of capiz parols and are are selling them…you may want to see what they have and have one sent out to you!

  8. the first Christmas then bf (now hubby) and i were together, we made our own parol, out of plastic-coated wire from the hardware store — no bamboo available in those days — and “wrapping tissue” (the equivalent of papel de japon here) from the crafts store. it has lasted 17 years already — though of course it has suffered much wear and tear — some parts have been replaced with sturdier construction paper which of course ruins the look. every year we take it out and hang it on our porch — a definite way to keep the Pinoy Christmas spirit even while away from home. i think it’s time to make a new one:)

  9. I contacted Monkey Hill Antiques in New Hope, PA and they have
    18″ diameter capiz parols in star and floral versions, blinking and non-blinking. $37.50 each plus shipping. No tax outside PA/NJ. Email:

  10. Hi, Stefoodie! Glad to be of help. Jobert says they’re out of plain white/cream-colored ones but still have the multi-colored kind available.

  11. For you folks in the US who want a parol: Capiz parols are available at:
    6 Coryell St.
    Lambertsville, NJ 0853tel. 609 397-3332
    Tell them marketman’s sister sent you.

  12. I’d pick a papel de japon parol like the one in your first pic over all the gaudy pampanga parols with all their bells and whistles. I totally agree with you MM that we are losing so many of our craft skills. To do my share in preserving this beautiful filipino christmas tradition I will be ordering parol kits for all my nieces and nephews here in the US. They cost $5.99 at

  13. Michael, that sounds very reasonable to me at $5.99! What a good idea! I walked around my neighborhood the other night and was disappointed to see that our house was the only one with a home-made paper lantern! Talk about dying traditions! I realize there are new traditions being formed daily but what a shame…hmm, we should have a bring back the paper lantern campaign next year… more eco-friendly, skill-based, a family activity, no electrical waste unless you use a bulb, etc.

  14. Hi Maketman…. Many thanks for granting my wish! I should be on my way to a crafts store to pick-up the materials to make this parol. I often see some small bamboo poles at the craft store and I am thinking that I should cut these poles into to sticks to make the lantern.

  15. Does anybody know where I can order some Parol. I live in southern california. My son is getting married and wanted to use it as a decorations. I have been searching the Net and have not found any.

  16. Joy, I think you can order the coroful capiz type parols from Monkey Hill in Pennsylvania with contact numbers in some of the comments up above… I am not aware of anyone who makes the paper type of parols in the states on a commercial basis.
    Good luck!

  17. MM, i found a lady at tiendesitas who i contracted to make papel de hapon lanterns for me. Yes not many people ask for it that is why the supply is low.

  18. Hi! Can you give us the name and the contact details of the lady who makes paper parols? Thanks!

  19. Hi, my son has to make a parol for his class. Would like to know how to make the tail part. How is the japanese paper folded and cut to make the tail of the parol? Thanks.

  20. This christmas Im thinking of hanging a parol by our window…So I decided to make one using a popsicle sticks,tissue paper & glue.Its a bit inperfection shape but if you put the tissue paper it covers up…Its nice outcome..
    Great site!

  21. i’ve been looking for stores/distributors of christmas lanterns/decors and who can make personal designs.can u please give some sites to visit with their contact numbers.i am planning to open up business for christmas.thanks.hope to hear from you

  22. Hi! I’ve been looking for parol exporter for Australia. we’re a newly opened business who’s planning to sell lantern made of capiz for our fellow filipinos here in Australia. Hope to here from you. thanks

  23. I’ve been searching for the plastic parol (star only with tail) but no luck. I don’t have time to make it.

  24. ▲▲▲♥▲▲▲ ang galing nyo naman▲▲▲♥▲▲▲

  25. Wow! Fond memories of home always warms my heart. Amazing how some of us are so “Americanized” and really should take more time to teach our US-born kids about the beauty and craftsmanship of all that is “Christmas” Filipino style.

    Thanks for sharing…hope you don’t mind that I’m linking to your blog on our site.

    Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon!

    Marlina Velasco
    FCCPNW Secretary, PR and Communications Chair
    Filipino Chamber of Commerce of the Pacific Northwest

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