This National Origami Day, on November 11, we can’t wait to sit down and find our zen by practicing this ancient art. Originally called ‘orikata,’ origami originated in Japan as early as 105 A.D. Before Japan’s industrial revolution in the late 19th century, only elites had access to the materials necessary for creating such geometric folds. Today, anyone with access to paper and a flat surface is welcome to give it a go. Join us in learning more about this artful pastime!
History of National Origami Day
While the origin story of this holiday remains unknown, it began in the birthplace of origami: Japan. Long ago, paper used to be a handmade product only available to wealthy families. In correspondence sent between these families, the writer would often include an intricately folded piece of paper along with their letter.
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 to the masses, origami became a regular feature of familial ceremonies such as weddings and birthdays.
Origami finds its simplistic charm by requiring only one tool: the paper itself. In this way, it can feel much like a logic problem or a brainteaser. However, origami’s modern cousin, kirigami, allows the use of scissors and glue.
Lillian Oppenheimer, who was born in New York City at the turn of the 20th century, is responsible for introducing origami to the United States and Great Britain. She founded organizations in each of these countries so that fellow paper-folding lovers such as herself could gather and share their art.
Today, Oppenheimer’s organization still stands in America and is called OrigamiUSA. Each year, they hold a two-week convention beginning on October 24, Lillian’s birthday, and ending on National Origami Day itself, November 11. At this convention, practitioners from all over the country come together to accomplish massive artistic feats using only paper.
Origami is an intrinsically analytical and trigonometry-based activity that requires focused attention and an inclination toward problem-solving. We cannot wait to put our hands to work on some folds of our own this holiday.
National Origami Day timeline
Paper is invented in China.
The first book about origami, still called orikata at the time, is published under the title “Hiden Senbazuru Orikata,” which translates directly to ‘Secret to Folding One-Thousand Cranes.’
The art of folding paper without any additional instruments is renamed from orikata to origami, the origin of which is derived from the Japanese words ‘oru,’ meaning to fold, and ‘kami,’ meaning paper.
Lillian Oppenheimer, along with many supportive friends, creates an American organization called The Friends of the Origami Center of America, today OrigamiUSA, where hobbyists can gather and discuss their shared interest.
National Origami Day FAQs
What sort of paper works best for origami?
If you’re only just learning how to master the art, printer- or copy paper will work just fine for first-time folders. For folds that you’d like to stand the test of time, we encourage you to visit an art supply store to purchase ‘kami,’ which is high-quality Japanese paper that comes in a variety of different colors. Just remember to always begin an origami piece with a square piece of paper, as rectangles rarely produce the desired results.
How should I keep my finished pieces?
Congratulations on your work of art! The best way to preserve an origami model is to coat it in a lacquer covering and keep it in a cool, dry place with little sunlight. You may also keep your completed models in glass jars or, if you don’t have the space, simply recycle!
Is origami always small?
No! Origami is as large as your original piece of paper will allow. At the yearly OrigamiUSA convention in New York City, practitioners create massive works of art that are sometimes even taller than the artists themselves!
How to Celebrate National Origami Day
All too often these ancient practices can be propagated in anonymity without practitioners ever learning who started it all. Take a trip to the library and check out some books on the topic. Not only will you learn more about what origami has meant to Japanese culture over the centuries, but you’ll also find some guides for creating your own.
Get to folding!
This entire holiday was established to celebrate the peacefully serene act of folding paper into beautiful new shapes and creatures. What better way to pay tribute than to find some high-quality paper of your own and join in on the fun?
Share the good fortune
In ancient Japanese tradition, the origami crane represents hope and healing. Take the time to create one of your own and offer it to a friend who needs a smile. We promise you won’t be sorry.
5 Facts About Paper That Are Perfectly Plain
The English word for paper is derived from the Latin word ‘papyrus.’
Paper wasn’t always the chalky, thin substance we know it as today — in fact, the first Bible was printed on sheepskin.
Loving a theme
It's a common Western tradition to gift newlyweds paper-based gifts for their first anniversary.
The prolific pine
One fully grown pine tree can yield up to 80,500 sheets of paper.
The American dollar is actually not made of paper but consists of 75% cotton and 25% linen materials.
Why we love National Origami Day
It offers us an opportunity to learn about a different culture
Most of the world’s most honored art mediums hail from nations outside of the U.S., and origami is no different. Japan’s aesthetic style of clean, sharp, geometric lines is embodied perfectly in a completed work of origami. While we’re creasing our paper today, we’ll be sure to remember origami’s origins.
Origami is a fantastically affordable way to decorate
For those who don’t have a big budget for home decor, origami is a fantastic way to bring beauty into a space at a low cost. Hanging chains of folded cranes can be a whimsical way to spruce up any room. Earn extra points by using recycled paper!
Folding is a family affair
Origami is an activity for all ages. This holiday, spend an afternoon gathered around the dining table to create creatures out of paper with those you love best. We believe that this simplistically beautiful art is a wonderfully effective way to connect with family members.
National Origami Day dates