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Haitian Christmas traditions: How to make a fanal in 7 easy steps


Gather the necessary materials and see images below:

  • Four pieces of 8-½” x 11” cardstock
  • Ruler, scissors and/or exacto knife, transparent tape
  • Colored tissue paper
  • Battery-powered votive candle

Step 1

  • Take one piece of cardstock. Turn it so one of the short ends is toward you. 
  • Use the ruler on the long side to measure and mark  7 inches from the bottom. 
  • On the other long side, directly across from the first mark, make another, also at 7 inches from the bottom. 
  • At the top, on the short side, make a mark at 4-¼ inches from either side (the center).

Step 2

  • Draw a line from each mark on the long side to the mark on the short side to create the peak of the roof.  
  • Use the scissors to cut along the two lines and remove the corners.
  • Draw a line between the 7-inch marks, fold along the line but make sure to open the fold.
  • You now have one wall-and-roof section.

Step 3

  • Using the other three pieces of cardstock, repeat the process with the same measurements, cuts and folds. 
  • You should now have four wall-and-roof sections.

Step 4

  • Place the four sections together, joining three of the walls. 
  • The roof points should be at the top, pointing away from you. 
  • Use the transparent tape to join the three of the wall sections together. 
  • Keep the fanal flat!

Step 5

  • On all four walls, use the exacto knife to cut out rectangles, approximately 2-inches wide by 1-inch high. They can be cut in a random fashion or in a pattern. 
  • Cut and tape small pieces of colored tissue paper over the spaces. 
  • This will be the inside of your fanal.

Step 6

  • Fold the fanal, keeping the tissue paper and tape to the inside. 
  • Tape the last two walls together to form a cube. Carefully, fold the roof segment toward one another and tape the roof edges together. It may be helpful to put your hand inside the fanal to push up as you press tape on the top.
  • You have finished the structure of the fanal. Now you can decorate it with designs or holiday wishes, using acrylic paint or markers. 

Step 7

  • Turn on the battery-powered votive candle and place it inside the fanal
  • You now have your very own Haitian-inspired Christmas tradition, a fanal.

Joyeux noel!


J.O. Haselhoef is the author of “Give & Take: Doing Our Damnedest NOT to be Another Charity in Haiti.” She co-founded “Yonn Ede Lot” (One Helping Another), a nonprofit that worked with volunteer groups in La Montagne (“Lamontay”), Haiti from 2007-2013. She lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

More by J.O. Haselhoef

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