Fundamental life skill: Folding paper Christmas trees

Forest of origami Christmas trees

A few days ago I posted about about my literary-inspired Christmas tree that’s helping me cope with an 85-degree holiday season on Guam. If you read down to the bottom of that post, you might have noticed a few origami map Christmas trees that complement the whole nontraditional-traditional island-y Christmas thing I’m going for.

I’m all for collecting random essential and not-so-essential life skills, and this is one worthy sharing. If you’re looking for an incredibly useful life skill to add to your repertoire, you need to learn how to make these (ridiculously simple and impressive) trees for yourself. They’re cheap, easy, and people will be impressed–especially this time of year.

All you need is Christmas music to set the mood, paper (in this case, old maps), scissors, and possibly a peppermint mocha.

Step 1: Start with a square. It can be a little beat-up.

Step 1

Step 2: Fold in half diagonally, from corner to corner, twice. You should now have an “X” crisscrossing your square, like so.

Step 2

Step 3: Fold in half horizontally–twice. Now your square has plus-mark shaped folds on top of the X:

Step 3

Step 4: Fold along one of your existing diagonal folds. Make sure the point is pointing toward you. Then press the left corner in and down toward the bottom point.


Repeat with the right corner.

You should now have a smaller square, like this:


Step 5: You should have four little flaps on your square. Mash each one flat, making sure to keep the point at the top sharp.

I like to use a pen or pencil for this step, because it helps keep the top point sharp.


Go around your tree, flattening each flap and folding the pages out of the way like a book as you work your way around.


When you’re through, your tree should look something like this.


Step 6: It’s time to make your tree’s trunk. Adjust the flaps of your book so there are four on each side, like this:


Now, see the little trunk  shape I’ve sketched on the tree? Envision (or draw) those lines on your tree and use scissors to cut along them.

It’s starting to look like a tree.


Step 7: To make branches, cut little slots through all four layers on each side of your tree, like this:

Step 7

Now, fold each of those slots straight up to make triangle shapes. This creates the Christmas-tree shape and helps keep your tree from unfolding.

Step 7

Fan the leaves out and stand your tree up. You’ve just breathed new life into a highly impressionistic, internationally-inspired, non-traditional Christmas-sy Douglas Fir, and you’ve added a new life skill to your collection. Brava!


You could go crazy and make a whole forest.


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