Make an Adirondack Luminaria Ice Candle

Adirondack luminaria

The soft glow of a homemade ice candle warms the long winter nights.

No one does a better job at beauty than Mother Nature. It is probably for this reason I collect and display Nature’s works of art. Artifacts from the outdoors like old bird nests and sea shells, pine cones, birch bark, and fresh balsam branches collect dust in my home and make me smile.

Ice luminarias, or Adirondack winter lights, are a perfect synthesis of these natural elements and soft candle light. The contrast of a hot, but softly flickering flame that survives although surrounded by ice, defines winter in the mountains. The days are short and cold this time of year and the sunlight is often filtered and muted. When the clouds lift, we are drawn to the sunny spots as we are to flame, for warmth and assurance the sun is still there. Those who live in the mountains hold faith, even on a -25 degree day, it will get warm again. The ice luminaria is an elegant reminder to keep the faith; the sun shines somewhere every day.
On a more practical note, beautiful ice luminarias are a favorite Adirondack craft as they require only cold and water to make, and we have plenty of that in Lake Placid. Once arranged and lit they look lovely, candlelight flickering through the ice and balsam branches, they softly illuminate the gently falling snow.

Here are step-by-step directions for making Adirondack ice luminarias.

First you need a large plastic bucket and hole-making gizmo like this one:

Adirondack Luminaria hole gizmo

The gizmo is an empty tin can with a wooden 1 x 1 secured as shown. The tin can will float in the water if you don’t add something for weight. We use wheel weights, but sinkers or small rocks will work as well. Fill the bucket with water and suspend the gizmo in the bucket as shown below.

Balsam in Adirondack Luminaria
The bucket stays outside in the very cold temperatures until the ice becomes slightly slushy. I like to add balsam branches at this point, but any decorative, natural elements can be added at this partially frozen stage.
Once the bucket of water is frozen solid, which takes anywhere from 24 to 48 hours depending on the ambient temperatures, bring it inside and run hot water in the tin can. The warmed can will melt the surrounding ice a tad, loosen, and can be removed.
Adirondack Luminaria hot water in the can

Run hot water over the outside of the bucket to loosen the entire luminaria.

Adirondack Luminaria hot water bath
The large candle holder, or luminaria, should slide out of the bucket.
Adirondack Luminaria slippin out
Ta-da! Completed  Adirondack luminaria - just add a short candle in the middle hole and gently falling snow for a warm and welcoming outdoor winter decoration.
Finished Adirondack luminaria

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