Ice Lanterns

Ice Lanterns

Lighting the endless night.

While Alaska is often called the land of the midnight sun, in winter it becomes the land of the noonday night. Alaskan ice lanterns, borrowed from Chinese, Russian and Norwegian versions, add a sparkling glow to the long nights to help light the way. If you are dreaming of Alaska but not quite there yet, you can make and enjoy these in any climate that has cold enough winters so the ice doesn't melt too quickly. Use them to light your walks for a party, set them out as holiday luminarias, or make them just because they are beautiful and fun.


Select a mold for your lantern. Buckets or large plastic ice cream tubs work exceptionally well. Even large balloons work well as a mold.


Fill the mold with plain water, or add a few drops of food coloring to tint your lantern. If you use a balloon, fill it with water then blow some air in it before tying it off. Set the water filled molds outdoors if the temperatures are below freezing, or place them in a chest freezer.

You have to watch the lanterns carefully as they freeze. You want to pour the extra water out of the center after the outer shells have frozen to a 1/2- to 1-inch thickness. The thicker the ice wall, the more durable and long lasting the lantern. Once the wall reaches the desired thickness, pour the water from the center and place a lit candle inside. The flame reflects off the ice and sparkles nicely. Even small cracks and imperfections in the ice become beautiful beneath the warm glow.