How To: An Arctic Ice Lantern


Fire and water don’t usually mix, but we’ve found an exception to the rule with a lovely, surprisingly easy addition to holiday décor-- arctic globe lanterns. Ancient cultures in cold-weather climates from China to Scandinavia first invented ice lanterns for practical use, but today they’re perfect for creating ephemeral centerpieces and illuminating snowy walkways, especially when nestled among holly boughs or evergreen branches.

What you’ll need:

- Ice lantern kit: balloon, freezing base, insulating disk, balloon clip
- Water
- Embellishments like berries or evergreen twigs. Keep in mind that they should fit into the opening of the balloon without damaging it.
- A freezer or cold outdoor space

1. Place your embellishments in the balloon first. (We chose a handful of red winterberries.) Fill with tap water until the balloon reaches the desired size.
2. Twist and clip the balloon neck to seal, then place the filled balloon on the freezing base.
3. Using the insulating disk, freeze your lantern in the freezer. In cold weather, (average temperatures below 20 degrees F), you can also freeze lanterns outside by placing the balloon and base directly on the ground in a shady location, or on the insulating disk atop decking or stonework.
4. Allow 14-18 hours for the small base, or 24-30 for the large, then begin checking your globe to see if ice is forming by pushing firmly on the balloon.
5. Once a shell of ice forms, feel the bottom of the lantern. If it is completely unfrozen, your lantern will have a thinner shell. A slushy base means a thicker shell. Continue freezing until your lantern reaches the desired thickness, but don’t let it freeze solid.
6. Over the sink or outdoors, cut the balloon and drain the excess water.
7. If you plan to use a candle in your lantern, melt a chimney through the top by placing the globe over a lit candle with air flow underneath. Or, use a cordless drill with a large bit to create the chimney. If you plan to use LED lights, skip this step.
8. Place on a nonflammable surface with a candle inside, leaving space at the bottom of the globe for air flow. Your lantern is ready to shine!

Indoors, ice lanterns can last for many hours depending on the temperature and the thickness of the ice; they can last outdoors as long as temperatures stay below freezing. For longest life outdoors, place your lanterns in a shady spot away from the ambient warmth of the house. If placed in the sun they’ll shrink slowly, but will become beautifully etched as they melt. Wherever you place them, they’re sure to sparkle—and spark conversation.

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