Ice lanterns

Snow and Ice lanterns are not a tradition exclusive from Finland, the Nordics or Scandinavia. Places like Japan also have this tradtion, with the city of Hirosaki having an anual snow latern festival.

But some sources point to the tradition of making snow lanterns in honour of fallen soldiers of WW2, during the 1940s in Finland. Since it's a common traddition to visit loved one's graves during the Christmas season, it is plausible that it migh have became a Christmas tradition of itself.

Regardless, it is a really nice activitiy to bring a bit of light to the darkness of winter, specially during Christmas.

Lumilyhty - Snow lanterns

Snow laterns are extremely easy to make and activity to make with kids.

In order to make a snow lanter, the snow conditions need to be favorable to making snow balls - Ideally nuoska type - packing snow (See snow types). If it's too cold and the snow is too dry the snowballs won't hold.

  1. Make snowballs of about the size of a fist (or smaller) and lay them on the ground in a circle with a bit of space in between.

  2. Add new layer of snowballs in between the snowballs of the first layer.

  3. Repat the process untill desired height is achieved. As you go up, try to make the snoballs smaller and place them closer to the center, so that the radius of the top of the lanter will be smaller than the base

  4. After the desired height has been achieved place candles inside the lantern

Jäälyhty - Ice Lanterns

Easy method

The easiest way to make an Ice lantern is to use 2 buckets, a large and smaller one. This takes the timing out of the equasion, and is less likely to result in failure.

  1. Find a Large and a small bucket, ducktape, and of course water. Remove paper labels of containers before freezing, and use metal containers for faster freezing and facilitating the use of heat to remove the ice from the containers.

  2. Fill the larger bucket with water up to 2/3rds.

  3. Insert the smaller bucket into the larger one and fill it with weights untill it has a reasonable distance from the bottom of the larger bucket.

    Note: Water can be used as weight but this is not advisible. If hot water is needed to facilitate the removal of the smaller bucket the frozen water in the smaller container will make it difficult

  4. With ducktape make an X shape on top of the two buckets to keep the small bucket in place

  5. Optionally add decorative material (such as spruce branches and pine branches)

  6. Depending on the temperature and size of the bucket, wait a couple of hours (ideally overnight when it's colder) and remove the ice from the containers.

    If lightly hitting the container upside down to remove the ice does not work, insert the container in a bowl of warm water for a minute or two to help the ice unstick from the bucket. Ensure the water is not too hot - otherwise the ice might crack.

    Afterwards, optionally, use a blowdrier or a small torch to make the surface of the ice clearer.

Single bucket

An alternative method is to use a single bucket, fill it fully with water, and periodically verify the thickness of the ice. The idea is so that the top of the bucket is the bottom of the latern since the surface of the water will freeze earlier than the bottom. Ensure the bucket does not freeze fully.

After a couple of hours, or overnight, remove the ice from the bucket and empty the water on the inside. If the bottom of the bucket is already frozen dently break it to remove the water inside.

This method works best with metal bucket because the thermal conductivity of the metal is much greater than plastic, leading to the water to freeze from the walls of bucket towards the inside of the bucket faster.

Spherical ice lanterns

Spherical lanterns can be achieved similarly to the the Single bucket method, but with a ballon instead of a bucket. Fill a balloon with water and bit of air. Leave the baloon outsite for long enough for ice to form in the ballon, but short enough so the water at the center remains liquid.

Puncture the balloon at the top where the air was left, and remove the ballon and the liquid water at the center.

Note on candles for Ice lanterns

Do not use candles with metal encasing on ice lanterns or use them with a ceramic plate. the metal will easily melt through the ice when the candle is lit.

Note on clear Ice

Some people claim that the way to make clear ice is to boil the water before freezing. That is not accurate. Ice that is not clear has frozen unevenly - eg from outsite towards the inside. When the inside water freezes while being contained in the outside ice it expands in volume. Having nowhere to go it cracks the already formed outside ice. Air disolved in that water also has nowhere to go, so it ends up trapped in the inside ice making white instead of transparent.

The only solution to making clear ice is to ensure that the water freezes evenly (eg. from top to bottom of a container). This can be achieved by isolating the container on all sides except one, and having only that area exposed to cold. This has the disadvantage of taking significanltly longer to freeze a whole container.

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