Winter Ice Lanterns

A Tutorial on the Ice Lanterns that We Made during Christmas Break.

Winter break from homeschooling this year brought record lows with the historic arctic blast storm. We had three straight days of hard freezes. That’s unheard of in North Florida. It very rarely snows here (maybe once in the 20 years we’ve lived here) but when it drops in temperature, we like to play with ice. This year we made ice lanterns. They were so easy and simple, and turned out so beautifully. I found the instructions from Practically Functional, but as always, I’ve made some alterations of my own. Below is our tutorial.

Before I give you a tutorial of what I did, I want to give a mild warning. The tea light candles tunnel down the lanterns to the bottom. The heat from the candle slowly melts the base of the lantern leaving a hole at the bottom. This causes puddles of ice around the lanterns, and the lanterns to freeze to whatever surface they are placed upon. Just keep that in mind when placing them. Sidewalks might not be the best placement. Our tea lights didn’t last as long as usual, though long enough to enjoy them. Votives may work slightly better.

Table of Contents


Making the Mold

Adding Decorations

Filling with Water

Freezing the Lanterns

Removing the Lanterns from the Mold

Lighting the Lanterns


There’s not much you need, and it’s likely you’ll have the supplies around the house.

  • 2 plastic/metal containers: one large, one small (We used a quart size yogurt container and a tin can; they worked perfectly.)
  • Rocks (or some heavy item) to keep the inside container weighted in the water
  • Masking tape
  • Decorations: tree trimmings or greenery, holly berries or cranberries, fresh or dehydrated sliced oranges (optional)

Making the Mold:

  • Make sure both containers are clean and dry so that the tape will stick to them.
  • Tear four 6-inch strips of masking tape. 
  • Tape the four strips inside the tin can equidistant apart with about 1 ½ to 2 inches inside the tin can. Allow the tails to hang over the outside of the tin can.
  • Grasp two opposite tape pieces on the tin can. Use them to lift and place the tin can inside the larger container o that the two containers’ tops are flush. Center the tin can and tape the tape-tales to the outside of the yogurt cup. 
  • Grasp the other two pieces of tape and tape them to the outside of the yogurt cup as you did the first two.
  • Check again to make sure your small container is centered in the larger container.

Adding the Decorations:

  • Cut small pieces of greenery, and layer oranges, berries and the greenery in the walls between the two containers.
  • We want to layer in a way that holds the items when you add water, but that is spaced enough to allow light to filter through
  • Alternatively, you can leave out the decorating step to have plain ice lanterns.

Filling with Water:

  • Warm/Hot water will make for clearer lanterns, but take longer to freeze.
  • Fill the space between the two containers with enough water that the inside container begins to float. We were able to see the can lift slightly.
  • Fill the inside container with rocks or some other heavy item that will keep the can weighted down.
  • Fill the remaining space between the two containers with water leaving about a ½ inch to an inch space at the top.
  • Press down any of the décor that comes above the water line.

Freezing the Lanterns:

  • For us, the fun is setting outside to freeze overnight. For most of the US in the winter this isn’t all that challenging to find a few nights of hard freezes. Here in North Florida, however, it doesn’t happen often. 
  • Alternatively, you can set them up in the freezer overnight to freeze. 

Removing the Lanterns from the Mold:

  • Check to make sure that the mold has frozen solid. The first night that we made them, they did not freeze on the bottom. The second night was colder and the mold froze solid. If not frozen, place in the freezer to continue freezing.
  • If they a solidly frozen, remove the rocks from the center.
  • Bring them inside and leave for 5 to 10 minutes to begin melting slightly. Remove the outside first. If you are impatient, like us, you can run warm water on the outside of the lantern.
  • Place the lantern back into the outside container. (This keeps the mess a little more contained and gives your hands a little protection.)
  • Fill the inside container with warm water. 
  • After a few minutes, twist and remove the inside container.

Lighting the Lanterns:

  • Take your lantern outside to the chosen location.
  • Remove from the outside container and place where you have chosen.
  • Light a tea light candle.
  • Tilt your candle and drop/slide the candle down the lantern.
  • Use a skewer/chopstick to center the candle.
  • Enjoy!!

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