Before we moved to Alaska, we had never celebrated the solstices before. I only knew when the winter solstice was because it is the same day as my brother and sister’s. However, in Alaska the summer and winter solstice is a big deal. There are multiple celebrations. We particularly enjoy the Solstice Tree Tour in Kincaid Park and the Ice Lantern Walk at the Eagle River Nature Center. This year we hope to attend Anchorage’s solstice festival for the first time.

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I think ice lanterns are so beautiful and magical! When I learned that this year the Nature Center wouldn’t be putting on a formal event for the Ice Lantern Walk I was very disappointed. That was when I decided that we would make some ice lanterns of our own!

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Tools:

  • containers of multiple sizes (plastic or metal)
  • water
  • rocks or weights
  • candles
  • cold Weather or Freezer
  • optional: decorative Items (berries, pine boughs, pine cones, etc.)

I used plastic, metal, and porcelain containers. I did not use glass due to the chance of glass breaking with the flux of the ice. However, the porcelain may have done the same, but I was lucky and it didn’t.

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To begin, we gathered our materials. We have pine trees in our yard. So I went out a clipped some branches. We are lucky enough to have a number of small pine cones scattered around our back porch. Jasper quickly collected a some of them, in addition to collecting the multitudes of rocks he has deposited on our back porch.

We did not think far enough ahead to collect any of the remaining berries. We don’t often see any this time of year even if we had thought that far ahead. I purchased a small bag of cranberries at the store because I thought the pop of red would look pretty. You don’t even need these “decorations”. However, the decorating part was Jasper’s main job. With our weather being so cold I didn’t want to chance him spilling our water all over himself (or me), so I did that part of the project.

I gathered our larger containers. These consisted of whatever I could find in our house, from empty coffee containers, to porcelain baking dishes. I liked the idea of our lanterns being all sort of shapes and sizes. Then I started by freezing a bit of water in the bottom of our larger containers. I wanted a good base for our lanterns. However, this step isn’t strickly necessary. You can place some kind of filler, like a pinecone into the bottom of the larger containers to create the space that would make a base for your lantern.

I then directed Jasper to fill the larger containers with our “decorations”. He was a bit over enthusiastic about his job. I had to remove some of his “decorations” before continuing to the next step. Otherwise we would not have had enough room to create the space where the candles would eventually go.

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I placed smaller containers into the larger containers, centering them to the best of my ability. I have read that others have used tape to center their smaller containers. However, I wasn’t overly concerned with consistency. In addition, it was about 15 degrees outside while we were doing this part of the project. We had thinner gloves on so that we would be able to properly handle the items. Thus, we weren’t overly interested in prolonging this part. Jasper helped me to fill the smaller containers with rocks to weigh them down and keep them in place. I poured water into the larger containers, then we left the weighted and decorated containers outside to freeze.

Even at around 15 degrees (and falling) not all of the lanterns were completely frozen when I went to check on them almost 7 hours later. However, the ones that were frozen I brought inside and allowed to melt slightly in order to remove the inner and outer containers from them, thus exposing our ice lanterns.

We lighted a few of our ice lanterns last night to try them out. Jasper enjoyed looking at them from the window of our warm and toasty kitchen. Today we plan to finish the larger lanterns that were not completely frozen last night. Then on Saturday night we will light the candles and enjoy them on winter solstice!

*In our area, where the high for winter solstice is a balmy 9 degrees Fahrenheit, I am not concerned about our ice lanterns melting from the “heat” put off by our tealights. However, if you are in a warmer part of the county, please not that your “decorations” may be flammable if your ice lanterns melt.
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