The night before Leo's third birthday party I stayed up late making banners of papel picado to decorate the house. I followed the step-by-step directions for folding and cutting in Making Magic Windows: Creating Papel Picado/Cut Paper Art with Carmen Lomas Garza (Children's Book Press, 1999). It was kind of like making origami snowflakes, only these papel picado designs (eight of them, rendered in cut paper on the cover of the book) are influenced by Mexican folk art traditions. They're festive and easy to make, even the one that looks like hummingbirds. Carmen's directions are excellent; you could use them to make papel picado with elementary school-aged children and get great results. All you need is brightly colored tissue paper, scissors, a pencil, and string.
We put up (and took down) Leo's banners for every household birthday from 2003 to 2007. After five years they were pretty tattered and faded, so I cut some new ones the night before Milly's birthday party last month. It's not a birthday at our house without the papel picado banners. Muchas gracias, Carmen!
[Making Magic Windows is the companion book to Carmen Lomas Garza's autobiographical Magic Windows/Ventanas mágicas (Children's Book Press, 1999), which won the 2000 Pura Belpré Award for illustration.]