How to Make an Ice Lantern - A Lesson From Japan's Snow Festivals

Article by: Art Gimbel

Thu April 11, 2013 | 00:00 AM

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The beautiful ice lanterns of Otaru Snow Gleaming Path Festival and the Sapporo Snow Festival light up everything from corner stores to canals and dark forest paths. If you happen to live in a location where the temperatures are below freezing, here is how you can take a little bit of this luminous snow festival home. If not, you can always clear some space out in the freezer and still enjoy this tradition, the enjoyment just might be a bit more temporary.


It’s a surprisingly easy winter craft, here’s how. 

1. Find a container or bucket with an open top, most sizes will do. A five gallon (20 liter) bucket makes a nice, big lantern, or a round one gallon (4 liter) ice cream tub for something more compact. For advanced ice lanterns, try filling up a water balloon.
2. Fill the bucket with water and set it outside in sub-freezing temperatures (or in your freezer).
3. The idea is to let the outer layers freeze and let the inside stay liquid, like a half-frozen ice cube. The larger the vessel, the longer the freezing time, but expect between 12-24 hours for a half-frozen lantern. Of course, if it’s really cold, the process will accelerate.
4. Once the top and sides have frozen solid, it’s time to remove the ice lantern from the bucket. A little bit of warm water works wonders around the edges to free it from the bucket, just not too much.
5. Gently turn the bucket upside down to release the ice lantern. Pour out any remaining water.
6. You should be left with a hollow ice lantern. Add a candle and you have a beautiful lantern, complete with fire and ice.

Most of all, be creative! With snow, ice and cold temperatures the possibilites are endless.

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