(Video link here). Our recent balloon post about how wonderful it felt to let balloons go (and make a wish) created quite an uproar. It seems we hadn’t considered the environmental impact of balloons – especially the foil kind –  on the environment, so we redacted it and tried to impart some semblence of fair-and-unbiased reporting into the mix. Even though we haven’t done deep enough research to know if latex balloons properly filled with helium and without ribbons pose a dire environmental risk, we’re stearing clear of sending balloons into the atmosphere, in case.

One reader had a suggestion: “tissue wishing papers that when lit on fire float into the air until they disappear into tiny bits of ash. My friends and I let the birthday person wish on one and send it soaring.” We googled “wishing papers” and came up with “sky lanterns. They are purportedly biodegradable lanterns are made out of rice paper, non-toxic wax and bamboo. Their wax “fuel cell” is essentially a candle which when lit, creates air currents that cause the paper lantern to fly into the air, as much as a mile high.

The picture of it looked exactly like the lovely “dream balloons” we posted long ago, used in festivals throughout Asia where thousands of people lite lanterns and send them flying into the air as they make a wish.  “Sky lanterns can be bought at Amazon and would make a lovely house gift for a summer celebration. BUT PROBABLY BEST TO STEAR CLEAR UNLESS YOU ARE REALLY SURE YOU CAN DISPOSE OF THEM PROPERLY (see italicized note at the end of the post).

photo: dan shih

We also came across Flying Wish Paper, a tissuey paper that you twist and light as you make a wish and watch it fly into the air. We used to make our own with the colorful papers that individual Lazzaroni amaretti cookies came wrapped in…

(Video link here.) We imagine that with a bit of experimenting (and close scrutiny of the video), you could figure out the right paper and twist to make your own with. Or just buy them here. They would be bright, alt bit of magic to replace our wishing balloons and sky lanterns.

Postscript: As soon as we posted this, we got a Comment citing the dangers of sky balloons and found this measured discussion in The Guardian that made us scratch sky lanterns off the list. SO, we’ve REDACTED yet another post and written our thoughts in italicas, after the fact. It feels like we have fallen into some sort of Mercurey Retrograde redaction zone.

We hit on another swell-idea-with-ramifications that makes us wonder about the culture of safety we live in. We have to admit to missing the local fireworks displays the neighborhood Italian guys used to put on in Greenwich Village during the Fourth of July, and the sound of firecrackers during Chinese New Year’s celebrations in New York City – both BANNED. It reminds us of Gever Tulley’s thoughtful talk about Dangerous Things You Should Do with Your Kid…Good dangerous because they were full of magic and taught your kid (and you) how to explore and learn and deal with dangerous things safely. We wonder what will happen with those magical festivals, full of tradition and culture,  in Thailand and elsewhere if sky balloons are widely banned. 

The big takeaway for us is: everything is connected, and everything we do has an impact like the butterfly flapping it’s wings halfway round the world…

Please let us know your thoughts on the many rules, ideals of safety and “correctness” we live with today, from what to eat to how to celebrate…

Related posts: gift: balloons for grownups, rethought and redacte
edible balloons (are you a secret molecular gastronomist?)
dream balloons
unusual guest ‘books’ on walls and furniture (and books)
yoko ono’s wish tree

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7 replies on “if not balloons, how about sky lanterns + wishing papers?

  1. PS whoops, got the abbreviation wrong, it’s the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – sorry about that.

  2. Just to reiterate, because it’s so important — even latex balloons without ribbons are hazardous to wildlife. (Besides which, any piece of latex that falls from the sky is trash. Trash!) Here is the full text of the warning paragraph from the Audubon Society website:

    At best, free-flying balloons become litter; at worst, they jeopardize wildlife. Once airborne, they can travel far afield and often end up joining the flotsam riding the world’s oceans. One that was unleashed in a science fair experiment to investigate wind direction was retrieved on an island 1,300 miles from its release site. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration identifies balloons as a commonly reported source of marine debris. In 1999 more than 32,000 were collected during coastal cleanups around the world. Balloons can choke, smother, or cause starvation. Their strings and ribbons can cause entanglement. In water, they bear an uncanny resemblance to jellyfish and other organisms eaten by turtles, fish, cetaceans, and shorebirds. Dead sea turtles have washed ashore with balloons hanging from their mouths, and scientists have found whole balloons and parts of balloons in whales during necropsies. Mass launches have been banned by numerous entities, including the states of Florida, New York, and Texas; the National Park Service; the White House; and even Walt Disney World and Six Flags Great Adventure. Balloons should be handled responsibly—don’t release them—and disposed of properly.

  3. Some part of the back of my mind struggles with our culture of safety also. Things I did as a child on the farm would freak out adults and children today. Yet we inundate ourselves with chemicals and fragrances and live in a toxic soup that is almost invisible to us. We legislate away “dangerous” things that we can see and handle but then we have no understanding or “grip” on the dangerous things that are in ppm measures or can only be smelled or are added to our food.

    It’s like the dangerous things we cannot see and cannot control we must fear and so we turn our fear onto the things we can control and see.

  4. In Porto, Portugal on the eve of “Dia do Sao Joao” (St John the Baptist Day) June 23 the sky is filled with tissue paper and wax balloons from dusk to dawn. Literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them. It is the most magical amazing evening… and there are plenty of firemen on duty throughout the city… The balloons range in size from a few inches across to a meter or more. Getting them to take flight without burning on the ground is quite a feat.

  5. Wow. Yeah. Thanks so much.

  6. I am glad to hear a description of the kind of magic and joy this kind of celebration can bring. The other side of the coin.

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