Niagara Gazette

December 11, 2008

EXTRA; A bright idea: Make-your-own luminarias


By SAMANTHA CRITCHELL

Associated Press Writer



NEW YORK (AP) — Children's faces seem to brighten the moment you flip the switch on the Christmas tree lights.

But tree awe is usually a one-day thing. What comes next?

Luminarias could be another brilliant idea. These easy-to-make lanterns are a tradition in America's Southwest — and they could become one in your household too.

Luminarias are rooted in an old Hispanic bonfire ritual, lighting the pathway to church for the festival of Las Posadas, a re-enactment of the story of Joseph and Mary's search for lodging.

Today, luminarias, also called "farolitos" (Spanish for little lanterns), are done on a smaller scale — typically candles placed in paper bags — but they still give off a warm, inviting glow.

The bag and candle can both be kept in place by filling the bag with sand, says Deborah Way, a senior editor at FamilyFun magazine.

Way says her most family-friendly tip for all luminaria is to use a piece of dry spaghetti to light any candles inside a deep vessel. You use a match or lighter to light the spaghetti, but then have a much longer stick as well as a longer window of time to transfer the flame.

Battery-operated "candles," popular in home catalogs, are another option.

Other ideas:

—Spruce up your bag.

If you use extra paper to cut shapes and then tape them to the inside of the bag, you'll cast your own shadows. If you use colored tissue paper, the effect will be even more impressive, Way says.

— Make a terrific trail.

This project uses plastic, gallon-size milk jugs. Cut a half dollar-size hole in the base of clean, dry jugs and feed a section of a strand of electric Christmas lights inside. Using the same string of lights, place another section in a jug next to the first, and so on. You'll create the effect of a trail of lights.

— Try ice.

This project uses tin cans. Fill a clean, empty tin can that's been stripped of its label. Freeze it until ice is solid. Use a hammer and nail to poke holes in the can to make a design — the ice will prevent denting.

Let the water melt, discard, and drop a candle inside the can.

Way warns not to stick your hand inside the can because there may be sharp edges.

The cans can either be placed on the ground or strung together and be hung with wire.



Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.