This tradition dates back to 17th-century Spain, when the towns people would light bonfires along the streets paths, symbolically lighting the way to Bethlehem for Joseph and Mary. The tradition spread to Mexico and later to the American Southwest, where parades of worshipers walked the lit pathways to Christmas Eve worship services. Eventually candles in weighted paper bags took the place of the bonfires. This idea just may have inspired the traditional Chinese lanterns used may times now.
In the colder northern climates candles are many times place in blocks of ice or hallowed out snowbanks, which intensifies the candles glow.
For many centuries after that very first trip to Bethlehem, flickering lights have guided visitors all over the world to welcome them to Holiday Celebrations and worship services.
The making of Ice Luminaries is simple, especially if you live where it is below 32 degrees. If not just use your freezer for making them.
You will need
plastic bucket such as a 1 gallon ice cream bucket or for large luminaries a 5 gallon pail
Empty plastic peanut butter of mayonnaise jar
Votive or pillar candle
To make ice cream bucket center your jar and weight down with a few small stones. Fill bucket with water to the rim of your jar. Place your bucket outdoors if below feezing or in your freezer. Freeze solid. To remove your jar just pour a little warm water into the jar to melt you ice just enough to remove the jar. Wrap your bucket in a hot wet towel to remove your luminary from the ice cream bucket. Add your candle to ice well and there you have a simple luminary.
You may use food coloring to tint your ice or even add a few decorative stones, flowers whatever you would like to you luminary.
A path of luminaries lighting the way throughout the town.
You could use them on your steps. or cluster them around your home landscaping. A wonderful way to add interest and beauty to the Christmas Season.