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.
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.)
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 Christmastime.
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.
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.
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!
I love the bits of juniper that stand up above the top of the mold.
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!