Ice Luminary

Christmas Ice Luminary
It’s single digit weather here in Wisconsin right now and everyone is bundling up to stay warm. You don’t leave your house without warming your car, you tell the kids they need to find “inside” things to do and  99.9% of most conversations start out weather-related. It’s cold, people, but the perfect kind of cold for making ice luminaries. I make them every year in preparation for New Year’s Eve.

I don’t always make them at the same time each year. It really depends on the weather. In weather like this, it only takes a few hours to make luminaries. The best part about ice luminaries is that each one turns out a little different. Many people like to add pine branches or berries to dress up their luminaries, but I prefer just the clear ice alone. The ice is so beautiful just by itself. Why mess with it?

The shape of your luminary is up to you. I prefer to make shorter, wider luminaries that give candles plenty room to breathe. Most of the luminaries I make are wide enough to fit a three-wick candle. The candle often starts out sticking out of the top of the luminary but once it’s lit it will eventually burn down to where the light will be seen through the ice. I think it’s pretty either way. It’s really more a matter of personal preference. They’re so inexpensive to make, it’s fun to just experiment. I hope you enjoy this simple step-by-step tutorial. If you’ve never attempted making an ice luminary before, I hope this inspires you to create one!

Materials Needed:

  • Larger plastic container
  • Smaller/Narrower plastic container
  • Rocks
  • Candle
  • Water
Ice Luminary Materials
Yep, seriously, that’s all you need. That and some REALLY cold weather. If you don’t live in the frozen tundra like I do, you could also make these in your freezer at home.
Take note of the Green Bay Packer ice cream pail I used. We’re big Packer fans at our house. As long as we’re talking about frozen tundra, if you ever have a chance to watch a Packer game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI, you’ll know the true meaning of frozen tundra. Packer fans don’t care, though. Supposedly we’re built for the cold. Not sure how I slipped through that requirement.
Alright, football talk aside. . .
Start out by taking your smaller, narrower container and filling it with rocks.
Ice Luminary
Ice Luminary
 Then put the smaller container in the larger container and start adding water. I usually fill the larger container up half-way or a little more than half-way, depending on how tall I want my luminary. The rocks you had added to the smaller container are used as weights to keep it from floating up from the bottom of the larger container. If the smaller container starts to float, add more rocks or dump out some of the water from the larger container.
Ice Luminary
The next part is very difficult, so pay attention. Just kidding. It’s the easiest part. Put the container outside, or in the freezer, carefully positioning the smaller container so it sits directly in the middle of the larger container. A flat surface is very important or you’ll create a luminary that’s uneven and one you won’t be able to place a candle in.
I put my luminaries right on my deck outside of my patio doors so I can keep checking on the progress. The kids have fun with it too! Your best bet is just to leave it outside overnight.
When the ice is frozen solid, take the containers back inside and remove the rocks from the smaller container. Fill the smaller container with hot water and let it sit for a couple minutes until the container releases easily from the ice.Christmas Ice Luminary

Set the smaller container aside and look into the middle of your luminary. Is there still some water inside? There should be.
Christmas Ice Luminary

At this point I take a look and decide how deep I want my candle to sit inside of the luminary. Most of the time I fill the hole with a bit more water so my candle will have a base that sits up a bit higher. After I add a bit more water, I set it back outside on the deck for a few more hours to freeze.

Once the water has frozen solid again, start running warm water around the sides of the large container until the ice easily releases from the container.

Christmas Ice Luminary
My five-year-old is really into science experiments right now and he loved helping make the luminary. His favorite part was checking the luminary during the freezing process.
What you end up with is a beautiful piece of art that really costs you nothing beyond what you’re already paying for water if you live in the city. If you’re leery about using real candles in your luminary, use a battery operated one. Experiment with different sizes and shapes of containers. Add some food coloring to your water. Throw some berries and branches into your creation if you so choose. Just have fun with it and enjoy the simple beauty of what an ice luminary offers.
Christmas Ice Luminary
 I normally line my sidewalk with the luminaries and put a couple on my doorstep for our annual New Year’s Eve party. It’s such a beautiful and warm welcome to friends and family as well as a simple and fresh start to the new year.
Christmas Ice Luminary


  1. What a fabulous idea and beautiful decoration! I’m sure they look beautiful outside!!!! So pretty!

  2. Thank you, Maria! They’re so simple but so gorgeous when lit. Thank you for stopping by!

  3. A fabulous idea and so fun to do with your children or grandchildren. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Peggy~PJH Designs

  4. Kids have so much fun making these luminaries, Peggy! Thanks so much for stopping by!


  1. […] Create an Ice Luminary – With just a few materials like a pail, drinking cup and rocks, you can make a beautiful ice luminary to display outside with a battery-operated candle (if you don’t want to risk a real flame). Your kids will love to help with this project. Checking on the freezing progress was my son’s favorite part! […]

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