Origami Christmas Ornaments

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Photo by Mother Earth Living staff
Use these upcycled holiday card boxes to package tiny gifts, decorate your tree or build homemade advent calendars.

My grandma taught me how to make these small origami boxes when I was a little girl. A true child of the Depression Era, she saved everything—bread bags, twist ties, tin foil. You name it, she had it tucked away somewhere just waiting to be reused and Christmas cards were no exception. Each fall and early winter, we would spend hours folding and adorning these child-sized ornaments to prepare for the coming holiday, using my tiny fingers to hold bows in place and curl too-small ribbons. Or maybe it was just a good way to keep me occupied and entertained while we were cooped up inside.

It’s no secret to those who know me well, that I caught a little bit of her pack-rat fever and it’s always hard for me to say farewell to the fun, colorful and tinselly cards I receive from friends and family during the holidays. Throughout the season I tack each new arrival to a wall in our kitchen (another Grandma-taught tradition), creating a lovely collage to serve as a simple reminder of all the love in my life. But when the holidays end, and decorations are taken down, these small treasures wind up tucked away in a box or drawer somewhere out of sight, out of mind and, more than likely, totally forgotten.

This holiday craft is the perfect excuse to dig out those old, unused greeting cards from Christmases past and give them a new life! Similar to the collage I like to make, turning old cards into homemade ornaments for the tree allows me to appreciate them and their sentiments for years to come.

If you don’t have a ton of holiday greeting cards ferreted away, consider using other thoughtful cards instead. Birthday, holiday or special occasion cards your children have given you over the years; anniversary cards you and your partner have exchanged; or any other cards you’ve kept as a special keepsake from your loved ones will work just as well.

If you’re feeling extra-creative consider placing small gifts, such as candy, inside each box. Or if you’re very much into crafting and more dexterous than most, make small trinkets or teeny-tiny DIY projects to go inside the ornaments. Allow your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews, or family friends to remove one ornament during their holiday visit or on Christmas Eve (if you don’t exchange gifts that day).

What you’ll need:

• Scissors
• Old holiday cards, greeting cards, or plain or printed cardstock
• Holiday-colored curling ribbon* (red, blue, green, gold, silver, etc)
• Ruler or measuring tape
• Old, not-too-sharp, paring knife (optional)
• Sophisti wrap (optional)
• Tape (optional)

* Silk ribbon will also work, but is a bit harder to work with and cannot be used to make the bows.


1. Select your favorite cards. On the inside of each card (i.e. where the message is) draw a square that is approximately 3.75×3.75 inches. Cut out the square.

2. On the inside of each card’s front, draw another square that is 4×4 inches, in a location that will include the image or design you wish to feature on your ornament. Cut out the square.

3. Measure 1 inch from two of the corners, on all squares, and cut a slit about 1.5 inches long, toward the middle. Fold up to make a crease along area between the cuts.

4. Fold the uncut corners in to meet each other in the middle (points together), folding squared edges as needed along the 1 inch base of cut corners from Step 3. Note: Ends may need trimmed to fit neatly.

5. Fold cut corners (they should look like small houses) over the inner square you just created.

6. Repeat process on all squares. Plain, smaller boxes will be the bottom of your ornament, and those with designs will be the tops. Assemble once all boxes are complete.

7. If you’re using plain cardstock and want to spruce up your ornaments, or just want to add variety to printed ones, wrap each top and bottom with Sophisti wrap or another heavy-duty metallic tissue paper. I recommend taping the wrapping to the inside of the lid and box so that they will still fit together easily. (These gift box ornaments really catch the light of the tree and sparkle!)

8. Gift wrap tiny gift boxes with curling ribbon like you would real gifts. A dull paring knife or small scissors will make the task of creating a curly bow much easier, but regular scissors will work too. If you don’t know how to gift wrap or aren’t confident in your wrapping skills, check out this video on YouTube.

9. After your bow is complete, cut a matching piece of ribbon to use as a hanger for your ornament. Run under the ribbon on whichever side you decide will be the top and tie off with a simple knot, or add more curls if you want.

Find more traditional holiday treats, décor and activities inHave an Old-Fashioned Holiday.

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