According to Dear Death, memorial services in South China and Japan include making small paper boats and floating them down a local river adorned with votive candles. The candles represent the spirits of the dead while the river represents their journey to the spirit world. The candles may represent loved ones that have newly passed or family ancestors. You too can honor lost loved ones this way by folding your own paper boats to hold small candles. You can either set them in a local river or set them in a small pool of water.

Lay a piece of origami paper in front of you with the white side facing up. Fold it widthwise, creasing it deeply.

Fold the upper edge of the top flap down to the fold; flip the paper and do the same to the other flap. You should now have a thin, white rectangle.

Unfold both flaps so you can see the creases, but leave the first fold. Fold the corners closest to the first fold up so they line up with the crease in the flap. Do the same with the corners of both flaps.

Fold both flaps down so that you have a white boat shape. Pick the shape up and slip your thumbs between the flaps. Open the boat shape gently.

Place the boat shape on a flat surface and reach inside, using your fingers to press down and flatten the bottom of the boat. Set a votive inside and light it right before setting the boat in the water.

Items you will need

  • Origami paper

  • Votive candle

  • Matches

Tip

  • Dip your boat in some melted paraffin before setting it in the water to make it float longer.