Make Beautiful and Useful Ice Luminaries / Luminaria




Luminary Time

Believe it or not the Holiday Season is upon us. Like it or not the cold weather is upon us as well. When life brings you lemons you make lemonade, right? so when old man winter brings you cold....  you make ice luminaries!

Luminaries, also known as luminaria or farolito are a small paper lantern (typically a candle in some sand inside a paper bag) This is festive decoration in the United States at Christmas time, especially on Christmas Eve.

Luminaries are a beautiful way to light a sidewalk during the holiday season.

Recently Instructables sent me a couple of balloons so I decided to make an Instructable showing how to make "cool" and inexpensive luminaries of ice.

Supplies Needed to make Ice Luminaries
  • Cold weather (or lots of room in the freezer I guess) - Anything below 32F should work 
  • Balloons, standard 8-10" party size, not tiny water balloon size (I've also made these using old coffee cans)
  • Lights or Candles - to illuminate luminaries you can use "tea light" candles, or small battery powered LED lights.  I  used LED Finger lights (similar to those) another option would have been a Simulated Candle Kit  by Instructable member Wireb (which I used for my pumpkin this year)
  • (optional) Drill with spade bit - If you let the balloon fully freeze, as I did, you'll need to drill, melt or chip out a hole for the lights.  
  • (optional) food coloring - if you'd like to have colored ice (I didn't choose to for this Instructable)

Step 1: Preparing the Balloons

Fill Balloons with Water
  • Optionally add a few drops of food coloring into the balloon (I didn't choose this option)
  • Fill the balloons from the tap
  • Tie a knot...just like water balloons :-)
Freeze - Set the balloons outside (or in a freezer) - I've found it's not a good idea to set the balloon in a pile of deep snow. This is tempting because it makes a nice round orb, but the snow tends to insulate things and freezing takes longer. Using a cookie sheet or cake pan works well to prop the balloon up.

Wait - I wanted these balloons to freeze thoroughly, and I was I let them "cure" for a day and a half

Step 2: Light the Night!

Creating the Illuminated Luminary
  • Drill Baby Drill - Since these orbs were fully frozen I used a 11/4" spade bit and a portable drill to cut a hole in the ice. Previously I've created ice globes and not let them freeze all the way, this creates a sort of ice bowl and can look really neat as well.
  • Any breakage? - one of these ice globes actually cracked in half while I was drilling. I just poured a little cold water on it and it froze back together
  • Drop in some light  - for today I simply dropped in two finger lights the glow was so bright I started to feel warm...or numb, I'm not sure
  • Optional - I found these chunks of ice make for some cool photo ops....and if you feel like getting some neat flames you can use a small piece of sponge and some white gas or lighter fluid to get a mixture of fire and ice.
Thanks for checking out my Instructable. Happy Holidays and good luck on all your projects!



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    5 Discussions


    5 years ago on Step 2

    A "variation" I have planned for this---shudder--winter is to make COLORED ICE CUBES and then unmold and use some water and a paintbrush to then freeze them together as building blocks. I am picturing some flame going on behind a castle wall of these---oh and the kiddos might like some for themselves too! All colors possible.

    Wonder if there is some way to place something inside the balloon to make it so it can't freeze all the way and you can still leave out or place in snow bank? Maybe weight it down with a bowl? A ball? A rock? A snow ball??? Hmmmmm----

    3 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Oh and don't set it in the snow.put it on some kind of tray. Another one i made was set on a round ashtray.....formed a flat base.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Try a heavy rock or a filled water bottle will have to be heavy enough to sit on top of the balloon. I will give it a try but I usually just dump the water out to leave room for the candle...tricky ..timing is everything better to have it less frozen can always add more water. Also to get food colouring in use a straw inserted in the top along with a trickle of water to get it all thru the straw.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I like the idea of an ice castle with cubes...awesome! Maybe you'll want to use cylindrical ice for the corners of your fortress....last year I made some in old popcorn tins that turned out like this  Note the ice will expand and surely damage your tin

    The balloons seem to freeze from the outside in and so some people wait for the outer shell to freeze and then purposely pop a hole in the balloon and let the water out...then if they want it to be thicker they poor more water in and let another layer freeze....