• Yoshika Lowe

Make Finnish Ice Lanterns or 'Ice' Candles

As a way to honor the dead and combat the dark Arctic nights, Finns have a custom of placing candles in the cemetery on Christmas Eve. Ice candles or ice lanterns are illuminated ice cylinders. They are created by partially freezing water in buckets, pouring out the water from the middle, then placing a candle inside. Ice candles are a popular Christmas decor in places with cold winters, as the buckets are usually frozen outside.

However, for those living in warmer climates, this post includes instructions for making faux ice candles! [Scroll down to the bottom of the page]

Ice Lantern--Nissilänpiha, Finland

Ice Lanterns


Medium to Large Plastic Container [or Bucket(s)]

Plastic cups

Tea lights and/or candles (depending on the size of the container you choose)

Evergreen sprigs (optional)

Berries (optional)


Step 1: Fill Container(s). Fill a plastic cup with water and put inside a larger plastic container. Fill large plastic container with water. For larger molds, use buckets, but do not use plastic cups. If you want to add some color and texture to your lanterns, add evergreen springs and/or berries .

Step 2: Put the Containers in a Cold Place. Depending on the temperature, the containers of water are placed outside overnight. The outside temperature should be well below freezing. Alternatively, they can be placed in a freezer for several hours or overnight.

Step 3: Let the Water Freeze. If using buckets and other very large containers, do not let the ice freeze completely (skip to step 5).

Step 4: Unmold Containers. Run warm water over outside of large container to unmold lantern. Remove cup(s).

Step 5 (Buckets & large containers): Unmold Bucket. Flip the Bucket Upside Down and Pour Water on It. Carefully Lift the Bucket Off the Lantern. Make a hole on the top and pour out the remaining water.

Step 6: Inspect the Lantern for Any Cracks. For smaller containers the cracks will look beautiful with candlelight. For buckets and larger containers, place the lantern on the ground and pour cold water over it. The water will seep into the cracks and freeze, immediately solidifying the lantern.

Step 7: Let There Be Light! Set outside and insert tea lights, votive candles or pillar candles.

Decorating with Ice Lanterns in Nissilänpiha, Finland

Faux Ice Lanterns

Not everyone lives in a place where ice lanterns are an option, but that doesn't mean the beauty of a frosty luminary cannot be enjoyed in warmer climates. Here is an easy way to make 'ice' candles. This craft is a fun one to do with your children, as they will enjoy watching the 'ice' crystals grow!

Icy Epsom Salt Luminaries


Jars, bottles, vases, candle holders, any type of glass

small bowl

1/4 cup Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate)

1/4 cup hot tap water

dish soap

foam brush or sponge

Step 1: Prep the Container(s). Thoroughly wash and dry the glass. The salt will not stick if it is greasy. Pour the hot water into the bowl; add the Epsom salt and stir until it is dissolved. You may have to microwave the solution for a few seconds to help it dissolve. Gently stir in 3-4 drops of dish soap, being careful not to make it bubble up.

Step 2: Apply the "Ice Crystals." Soak a foam brush or sponge in the salt solution and squeeze it out slightly. Wipe the solution on the glass to evenly coat it. Too much is better than too little. If it is dripping, set the glass on paper towel, but do not try to wipe the excess off. Let it dry thoroughly and resist the urge to touch because you will disturb the crystal growth.

For the candles pictured above: Candle on far left--I wiped on the first layer with a sponge brush, then dripped the next two layers on, letting each layer dry completely. Middle candle-- dabbed on with paper towel dampened with salt solution. Far right candle-- I wiped on first layer with sponge brush, then holding it sideways, poured on two more layers after each was dried.

[Handle the finished product gently. The crystals may scratch off if handled too roughly.]

*Adapted from Craftiment.com