How to Make Luminarias

Luminarias

Brighten the night! Here’s how to make luminarias—twinkling paper lanterns—to line a driveway or sidewalk for your next festive gathering.

Traditionally, luminaries were used by the Spanish around Christmastime; they lit the way for the Christ child, welcoming Him to the world. Hundreds of years ago, luminaries were small bonfires of crisscrossed piñon branches which were built in three-foot high squares. After the Spanish explorers discovered the paper lanterns of the Chinese, the paper bag approach was adopted.

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Today, luminaries are still popular in New Mexico and the Southwest—and we’re seeing them pop up elsewhere, too! They’re similar to the idea of electric Christmas lights but also have a certain glowing magical quality about them, don’t you think?

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Simple Luminarias

Make the most simple, traditional luminarias with brown or white paper bags. Fold each bag at the top, then fill each with a couple of cups of sand and a votive candle. Place the bags on steady ground along pathways. For safety, many folks now use a flameless LED votive candle or solar-powered light. If you use real candles, be extra vigilant, especially if there isn’t snow on the ground.

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Reusable Luminarias

  • Collect large metal juice cans.
  • Punch holes in the sides of the cans using a nail or hole puncher.
  • If you’re handy, you can punch out designs such as stars.
  • Next, paint the cans with flat black paint. (Spray paint makes this easy, but use cautiously with small children around.)
  • After the paint dries, pour 2 inches of sand into the bottom of each can. Settle a votive candle into the sand and light.

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The Magic of Candles

Here are other ways to bring candle light into your home.

  • Float tea lights in shallow bowls of water along with some flower petals.
  • Use small terra-cotta pots as candleholders. Paint them with craft or fabric paint and add a votive candle or tea light.
  • To make any candle a scented candle, add a drop of essential oil to the melting wax just next to the wick. Consider cinnamon, frankincense, myrrh, pine, or bay for traditional holiday fragrances.

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Or just use an old bait

Or just use an old bait can.The holes are already there
in a beautiful pattern and they are so nostalgic.