DIY: Ice Luminaries Are Simple to Make

Ice lantern on the snowy ground with berries and greens frozen into the ice.
My Garden Life
January 9, 2024
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Luminaries give off a soft, amber glow to warm the soul in the deep, dark winter months. They cozy up your curb appeal and add a very merry touch to a holiday party. Traditional luminaries are made from paper bags with sand in the bottom, but you can fashion luminaries from all sorts of materials, including water. These ice luminaries are super easy to make, and although they only last as long as it’s cold outside, they’re extra-festive and wholly unique. Here’s how to make them.

How to Make Ice Luminaries

Supplies for Making Ice Luminaries

  • Water
  • Deep Plastic Containers
  • Glass Jars
  • Rocks, for weight
  • Masking Tape
  • Twigs, Sprigs, Berries and other decorative materials
  • Tea Lights, battery-operated

Directions:

1. Fill a plastic container with as much water as it takes to give you the height you want for your luminaries.

Pro Tip: To ensure your ice is as clear as possible, use distilled water. Boil it, then cover it and let it cool somewhat. Boil it again, and let it cool enough to pour into the container. Boiling removes some of the impurities and air bubbles that can cloud your ice.

2. Fill a sturdy glass jar halfway up with rocks. Put the jar in the container so that it sinks down a few inches into the water–add or take away rocks as needed. This will be the well for the tea light. Use masking tape to secure the jar in place by attaching strips of tape to the lip of the jar on all sides, and sticking the other end of the tape to the container.

3. Slide your twigs, berries and other decorative materials into the water between the plastic container and the jar.

Pro Tip: The sky is the limit when it comes to the decorations you can put in your luminaries. You can use fall leaves, sliced fruit, colorful ornaments, garlands, or glitter. You can also use a little food coloring to give your luminaries a blue, green, red, or yellow glow.

Ice lantern on the snowy ground with berries and fir greens frozen into the ice.

4. Freeze. If it’s cold enough outside to freeze your ice luminaries, you can make as many as you need all at once. Otherwise, how many you can freeze depends on your freezer size.

5. Once the ice luminaries are frozen, set the container in warm water, and pour warm water into the jar until the ice melts enough that you can remove the jar and slide the ice out of the container.

6. Turn on the tea light and set it in the well. Turn out the lights, and voila! Gorgeous, glowing luminaries to get you feeling festive.

With a little imagination and a few hours of freezing temps, you can make these gorgeous ice luminaries from scratch, and they don’t have to cost you a thing. Line them up along your driveway or sidewalk, or put them on the porch railing or steps to welcome guests and wow the neighbors.

Ice luminary at night showing the natural materials embedded in the ice.

How to Make Ice Globe Luminaries

One of the simplest ways to make ice luminaries is by using balloons to create spherical lanterns. It’s easy to make a lot of ice luminaries at once with this process and the globes look gorgeous lining a drive, walk, doorway, or just randomly placed around the lawn.

Supplies for Making Ice Globe Luminaries

  • Water
  • Balloons (use large enough balloons that the completed shape will cover a tea light)
  • Tea Lights, battery-operated
  • A screwdriver or ice pick
  • Food coloring (optional)

Directions:

1. Fill balloons with water.

2. Place them in the freezer or outside.

Colorful balloons filled with water and placed on an outdoor railing on a snowy day to freeze and use for making ice luminaries.

3. Once the water is partially frozen and holds its round shape, remove the balloon.

4. Using a screwdriver or ice pick to break a small opening, big enough for a tea light, and dump the unfrozen water from the middle.

5. Insert the tea light into the opening.

6. If the ice balls unintentionally end up frozen solid, you can still place a tea light in the snow just beneath the ball, or just behind the ball, to give it a nice glow.

Ice luminaries made from filling balloons with water glowing on a snowy night.

For a fun twist you can add food coloring to the water and make colorful spherical lanterns. Put a few drops of food coloring in the balloon first then fill it with water. These colorful, translucent ice balls would also make a fun outdoor Easter decoration in regions that experience freezing temperatures into the spring. It might be best to keep these colored spheres in lawn areas and not on wooden tables, railings, or wood decks where the food coloring may stain as the ice melts.

Looking for more ways to decorate your porch for winter? Find out how to Create a Gorgeous Winter Container Garden in less than one hour.

Winter window box arranged with a mix of winter greeneryand berries.

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