make your own: ice lanterns.

December 21, 2017

ice lanterns | reading my tea leaves

Growing up, I’d light luminaria with my Uncle Ralph on Christmas Eve. He’d have filled the bottoms of white paper bags with beach sand and lined them up along the edge of his street. We’d trip from bag to bag, lighting votives with long barbecue lighters. Neighbors would come out of their houses to light the bags in front of their homes until the whole street was lined with flickering light. When we took the sleepy drive back to our own town, we’d wind through a beachside neighborhood alight with neighborly good cheer.

These ice lanterns are a little more cold-weather dependent than the paper version, but they’re the perfect thing to try if you’re in a spot where temperatures are low and nights are long.

I first wrote about making these ice lanterns when I worked for Gardenista. In the years since then, all of my Weck jars have succumbed to expanding ice, so this year when I noticed a small yogurt container left behind in our recycling bin by our beloved babysitter, I scooped it up to use as a more foolproof alternative. A few weeks later I found another, and I saved both alongside the larger yogurt containers we buy for ourselves. When the temperatures finally hit freezing last week, I pulled my collection from its spot under the sink, and voila, lanterns. ice lanterns | reading my tea leaves
I use a bit of tape to hang the smaller container inside the larger one, trying my best to center it. (A process made easier with a second set of hands.)
ice lanterns | reading my tea leaves I stuffed the sides with bits of juniper and then filled it up with water, but you can add anything you’d like. Bright red winterberries would be a festive alternative to the juniper, if you prefer red at lanterns | reading my tea leaves

Just like the ice ornaments that we made, we relied on our freezer to set the lanterns, but in a cold spot you could leave these outside to freeze instead. ice lanterns | reading my tea leaves
Once frozen solid (I left mine in the freezer overnight) run a little warm water around the yogurt container to loosen the lantern from the mold. ice lanterns | reading my tea leaves
While I waited for my ice lanterns to freeze, I experimented with freezing shapes in cookie cutters. (I found the process to be satisfying but a little more cumbersome, since water seeps out and you need to flood your tray and then break up and melt the ice that forms around the outside of the cookie cutter. Still, worthy of the experiment!ice lanterns | reading my tea leaves
I love the bits of juniper that stand up above the top of the mold. ice lanterns | reading my tea leaves
I used beeswax tealights that I poured for my lanterns, but if you’d prefer to leave yours unattended, you could also use faux battery-operated tea lights.

Happy winter solstice, friends! Here’s to more light!

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  • Reply Laura December 21, 2017 at 10:39 am

    These are absolutely gorgeous! I’d love to try them out, I’m just never really good with my hands.. *hides away* How long did they last before starting to melt?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 21, 2017 at 1:10 pm

      Ours lasted two days before melting, but all depends on the temperatures of course!

  • Reply Tamara December 21, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    Oh my, total flash back, I made these as a kid! I was always checking out craft books from the library and trying every craft my mom would let me do. I might have to revisit this one.

  • Reply suzanne December 21, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    These are very beautiful and I too like the way you let the branches be above the water line. Did you use regular tape water? i read somewhere that the ice is cloudy if you don’t. yours look nice and clear. Have a wonderful holiday.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 21, 2017 at 2:30 pm

      Used water from our kettle, so it had been boiled! Might be why they’re fairly clear!

  • Reply suzanne December 21, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    * tap water

  • Reply rebecca December 21, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    These are SO beautiful! Must try! and happy solstice. 🙂

  • Reply jane December 21, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    So pretty!

  • Reply Kelley December 22, 2017 at 12:13 am

    Maybe use silicone molds instead of cookie cutters? I have a silicone bundt pan that would look like a wreath…

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 22, 2017 at 7:56 am

      I didn’t want to invest in anything new myself, but I bet that would work well!

  • Reply Kelli December 23, 2017 at 10:27 am

    Any tips for finding juniper or winterberries?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 24, 2017 at 7:58 am

      Not sure where you are in the world, but junipers are native to much of the US and winterberries are native to the Northeast so you can keep an eye out for them in the wild. Otherwise, both are also commonly found in florist shops this time of year.

    • Reply Ariel December 28, 2017 at 5:44 pm

      If you live in New England, winter berries can often be found on the side of the road or at the edge of boggy/wet areas. Just be careful not to harvest more than 10% of what is there — the birds and critters rely on the berries to eat during these cold months.

  • Reply Ariel December 28, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    So beautiful and creative. I look forward to each one of your posts– always simple and inspiring!

  • Reply Heidi January 3, 2018 at 9:37 am

    This is a huge tradition in Finland! Many families make these every year, and many of them use buckets too 🙂 It’s such a fun and cheap way to make something so beautiful.

    Heidi ✨

  • Reply Monica January 4, 2018 at 12:31 am

    These are so incredibly beautiful! Unfortunately where I live in Australia even in the middle of winter these would melt very quickly. We just don’t get a true winter down here.

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