Chinese lanterns in UK

Submitted by Ben Zabulis on Fri, 12/23/2016 - 16:15
I’m posting a rather seasonal question which some readers might know the answer to (an internet search has so far yielded zero).
I recall, whilst growing up in Nottingham (UK) in the late-1950s and 60s, one of our Christmas decorations was a small Chinese lantern (the concertina paper type which collapse flat for storage). I was reminded of this recently through a posting on a Nottingham nostalgia Facebook page, somebody else posted a picture of one they’d had and I was amazed at how many people wrote in claiming that they also had them.
So, my question is how did these lanterns get to the UK? I wonder if there’s a Hong Kong link as I’m not sure if contact with mainland China in those days would have been sufficient to yield this sort of product on the mass market. Maybe something to do with civil service or forces postings? Certainly nobody from our family (and probably our community, mostly mining) would have ventured this far. Having said that, I suppose there was a fascination with the orient in those days as I also remember several Chinese characters in the early Rupert Bear stories !
An interesting festive conundrum perhaps?

I also remember as a kid in the 1950's my parents having these paper lanterns in the house as part of our Christmas decorations.

I doubt if there was anything unusual or special in the fact they were to be found in the U.K. in those days. HK was a thriving manufacturing hub in the 50's - I distinctly remember seeing pots and pans, clothes, Christmas decorations, gas mantles -  all sorts of things sold in U.K. shops under the title "Empire Made."

I suspect these lanterns simply fell into this category.

Thanks for reply Tideswell27, I think you're right regarding the 'Made in HK' and 'Empire Made' tags which were very common in those days. It's interesting though how the idea of using Chinese lanterns as Christmas decorations might have taken hold, perhaps somebody simply had a good idea or maybe the influence of Cinema or the early UK Chinatowns. Thanks again for taking the time to reply and hope you have a very happy and peaceful 2017.


I recall that during the war, when so many things in England were impossible to get, my parents had a few pre-war and treasured Christmas tree decorations.  There were one or two small concertina type lanterns which they must have had since at least the 1930s.  Maybe they came from Japan.  I used to have a family photograph taken England in the late 1920s or early thirties showing a group of young people at a dance. The girls were dressed in a westernised version of Chinese or maybe Japanese dresses.  The mysterious orient held a charm for peoople even in those days.  Andrew