Originally written on November 11, 2021. Updated 2023
November 11, Origami Day, is a special day for all those paper folding fanatics out there, as well as for those who happen to love the art of create beautiful things also from cloth, dollar bills, napkins, or anything that’ll hold a crease.
This day was created to coincide with the birthday of Lillian Oppenheimer, the founder of the first origami group in the United States. Lillian, who lived from 1898 to 1992, also was instrumental in the founding of the British Origami Society, in addition to Origami USA. But, of course, Origami has quite a long history that goes much further back beyond Ms. Oppenheimer.
The art of folding paper seems to have born in several places throughout the world, including Europe, China, and Japan. This particular form of art has accompanied traditions and celebrations of every kind, including funerals, birthdays, weddings and more. Originally called ‘orikata,’ origami originated in Japan as early as 105 A.D. while, according to others Origami, which comes from the Japanese words, “ori” meaning “folding”, and “kami” meaning “paper”, originated in Japan in the 6 century, though for a long period of time the art was preserved for religious ceremonies. By the 17th century, origami had become mainstream in Japanese society and was being used for decorative and ceremonial purposes.
The first known historical reference to a paper model is in a poem, in which a butterfly design was referenced in connection to Shinto weddings. But that’s just one of many ways that these designs were used.
In Europe, it was napkin folding that was all the rage, a tradition that was abundant during the 17th and 18th centuries as a sign of being a good host or hostess, in a particular tradition that sadly would eventually fade out.
When Japan opened its borders in the late 1800’s, they started incorporating German paper folding techniques, and these two worlds came together.
Either way, long ago, paper used to be a handmade product only available to wealthy families. In correspondence sent, the writer would often include an intricately folded piece of paper along with their letter itself. By using such a valuable material as mere decoration, wealthy families could demonstrate their access to such luxuries. As time marched on and paper became more readily available also to regular people, origami became a regular feature of familial ceremonies such as weddings and birthdays.
Unclear historic origin apart, on these days, Origami has been used also as a beacon of hope, with the tradition of folding a thousand cranes being done for people who are in the hospital fighting cancer.
This tradition came from the experience of a young girl, Sadako Sakasi, who developed leukemia 10 years after the atomic bomb was dropped on her village of Hiroshima during World War II. While she was in the hospital, she had heard that a sick person who folded 1000 paper cranes would get well soon, so she decided to do it. Sadako only succeeded in folding 644 paper cranes before her peacefully death.
But people all over the world heard her story and were inspired, joining together to build the Children’s Peace Monument in Hiroshima. To this day, children from all over the world send paper cranes to be placed at the monument in Sadako’s honor.
Because of this story, the patience and attention to detail that is inherent in the art of paper folding has come to symbolize a beacon of peace, healing and hope for the world.
While traditionally origami only involves folding paper and cannot include the use of any scissors or knives, modern-day artists do not make any distinction between sculptures that are made just by folding paper and kirigami – a variation of origami that creates models by cutting and gluing together paper.
If you have never tried origami, maybe today is the day to learn.
Okay, so maybe picking up a piece of paper and start folding it into something amazing really isn’t that simple, but there are plenty of opportunities for you to use online resources and books from the local library to start making amazing creations out of paper.
Start with the crane, one of the most recognized origami models around the world.
And, If you already know origami, use today to start learning a new origami technique or working on a new, complex model…
Images from web – Google Research