World Origami Day

First, I would be remiss if I didn’t note that it’s also Veteran’s Day, which coincides with the anniversary of the end of World War I. Here, it’s a day to honor all of the brave people who have served in the United States Armed forces, which includes members of my own family. Since it’s a more serious and well known day, it didn’t fit within the confines of this month’s project, but I wanted to start this post by pausing to say thank you to everyone who has served this country.

It’s also World Origami Day, which celebrates the age old art of paper folding. Ancient legend has it that anyone who folds a thousand paper cranes will be granted their wish. In some versions it’s also a lifetime of good luck. Today, this small folded crane is also celebrated as an international symbol of peace, which also seems fitting for a day celebrating the end of a war.

I tried origami once, but wasn’t very good at it. The simplicity of the final form is deceiving once you start to fold the paper. But I appreciate the beautiful creations I’ve seen people come up with, from dragons to dinosaurs to beautiful flowers. It’s amazing to think that it’s even possible to create those forms out of a single sheet of paper.

The only paper folding I was determined to learn when I was a kid was that of a paper airplane. I would imagine whole stories for my tiny invisible pilots inside, who were about to take their maiden flight on my masterpiece. This was an unfortunate thing to do, since I sucked at making paper airplanes. My tiny pilots would inevitably die a horrible death as my planes consistently failed to fly properly and crashed into the floor.

Looking back now, paper airplanes are like flying origami. Perhaps, my failed attempts at traditional origami should have provided some foreshadowing and saved all of those tiny pilots from doom. But I’ve always had a determination that was never bothered by being paired with a complete lack of skill. When I wanted to do something, I just did it.

There was one day, several hundred failed planes into the process, when on the last fold, I tossed my airplane away and a beautiful thing happened. It flew. It glided across the room, and landed gingerly on my desk next to a stack of books. I was shocked. I was all ready to find a tiny phone so I could call the families of my tiny pilots and tell them the terrible news, when the thing had actually worked.

Maybe I hadn’t quite made a thousand, though I’m actually not sure, but my willful perseverance had produced success. Something I wasn’t naturally good at, had become a skill. I took a single piece of paper and had created an aerodynamic masterpiece of paper propulsion. And best of all, I had gotten my wish.

When I think about making a thousand cranes, I have to wonder if there’s a lesson buried there, like all good legends. Maybe it wasn’t about magic cranes at all, but simply about determination. In the end, your wish is really up to you. If you put your heart and soul into something and focus on it long enough, good things will finally come your way.

I stopped making paper airplanes soon after that, as tiny pilots everywhere breathed tiny sighs of relief. But the feeling I had that day stayed with me. A thousand failed attempts at various other things would follow, but I never doubted that, one day, I would eventually succeed. All thanks to a single piece of carefully folded paper.

Posted by:Charlie O'Shields (doodlewash)

Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world!

39 replies on “World Origami Day

  1. How did I not today was the National Origami Day!! I wonder if the Japanese have a special day to celebrate origami. I’m not sure who taught me origami, probably my mom. But I do folding lots of paper cranes and learning to string them together. We used to string 100 cranes in one string. They stack neatly so it’s quite deceptive how small a 100 stacked cranes look. My girls tried origami and they enjoyed the process but they lacked the patience to do it well. Like zentangle, I tend to reach for my large pile of beautiful papers when I’m stressed. There really is a sense of calm when you work on something beautiful. Thanks, Charlie! And perhaps you can give it another try to see if you can make 3-D origami as beautiful as your 2-D ones! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Kari! I had no idea this day existed until the little calendar I use told me! 😊 Glad to hear I’m not alone in lacking the patience to master it. I seriously haven’t tried again since childhood, but maybe I should! If not, one day when we finally meet you can show me! 👍🏻😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely painting of origami pieces, and you even included a red origami poppy, very nice. Your feature brought back fond childhood memories of folding mass amounts of paper airplanes and always tinkering with the folds to get better lift and distance. As for the cranes, the tradition of a 1001 cranes has evolved in the islands and is a common wedding tradition now embraced by many different cultures here. The practice teaches dedication, perseverance, and patience…qualities important to the longevity of a good marriage. Sometimes the bride-to-be does it alone, while others enlist the aid of family and friends. Your post has inspired me to celebrate the ‘day’ and fold a few cranes for remembrance, perseverance and for peace. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. A lovely combination of the two days today. Who needs to make them when you can doodlewash so beautifully? Though I say that slightly (very) jealous of origami masters, as I’ve never been able to even slightly do it. Watching someone fold the paper so assuredly, much as I enjoy seeing it, just makes my poor, impatient little mind boggle.

    I never did perfect the paper aeroplane – even my maths teacher bullied me for that!

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    1. I’m happy to know its not just me. I gave up quickly on origami, but for some reason paper planes held more allure. Never really mastered them though. People who can do either are so impressive to me, but oh well… you’re right… I’m better off sticking to doodlewashing. It’s more my thing. 😊


      1. I think you were just a tyke who liked the idea of throwing paper planes about the place! Me being the perfectly-behaved child I spoke of yesterday, I don’t think I ever even made one, which I really regretted when my teacher asked me to.

        Well, you should totally have another shot – I’m going to! It won’t go well, but that crane you’ve painted is just too tempting!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I purchased a handmade paper folded box at an art show. Inside are 2 Origami Cranes. Thank you, Charlie for your beautiful Doodlewash! 😊 It is amazing to me where we can find the symbol of peace! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love folding paper. Thank you for your post today Charlie. When I was teaching art to kids many of my students were exceptional paper folding artists. One of my students folded me 1/2″ crane. I was in awe as I watched his fingers manipulate the paper. Your drawings are beautiful.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I just looked up the National Day list….your posts have been so Ultra Intriguing…SUPER YEAH…found out my birthday is National French Toast Day….I can live with that 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha!! Nice!! Actually Philippe and I typically have pancakes, but he’s agreed to make French Toast that day to mix things up. That was my absolute favorite as a kid. Hopefully I’ll serve you up something lovely for your birthday then! (Assuming I can figure out how to doodlewash it! 😊) hehe

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow…that’s deep, dude! And beautiful…both your lesson and the doodlewash! I love doing origami. I have a bunch of books on folding everything from Christmas ornaments to animals of every kind and lots of neat papers to fold with.🙂 I haven’t done it in years though. Too little time, too many hobbies.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re right! It would be a fun (and therapeutic) thing to do with a friend.🙂 Maybe next time I get together with someone to chat, I’ll suggest that. I make jewelry when I get together with a neighbor to chat. I love doing that, too…and I come away with something I can wear!🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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