How to Make New Year's Eve Luminaries

How to Make New Year's Eve Luminaries image by H. McGurgan

Brightly lit luminaries add a festive touch to any New Year’s Eve celebration. You can make these Mexican-inspired decorations yourself using paper bags, candles and sand. Used traditionally as a way to guide visitors to their destinations, luminaries set outside your home let your guests know exactly where they’ll find the party. Making luminaries is a perfect craft activity for people of all ages and is so easy that even small children will be able to help.


Step 1

Buy lunch bags at a grocery or party supply store. White bags reflect the glow from the flame better, but brown and colored bags may be also be used. You may want to alternate white and colored bags for a unique effect.

Step 2

Fill the bags with 2 or 3 inches of sand or cat litter. Use enough sand or litter to stabilize the bags and prevent them from blowing away in the wind, but don’t make them so deep that the sand will cover the candle.

Step 3

Place a tea candle in the center of the sand. If you want the luminaries to burn for several hours, use larger votive candles.

Step 4

Arrange the luminaries outside your home. Line your walkway or driveway with luminaries or place them around the base of trees.

Step 5

Light the luminaries with a long lighter or fireplace matches. If you are hosting a New Year’s Eve party, light the luminaries about 30 minutes before your guests arrive. If you are making luminaries for your own enjoyment, light them when it starts to get dark outside.

Step 6

Check the luminaries every hour, relighting any that have gone out and replacing any candles that have burned down.

Step 7

Extinguish the luminaries before you go to bed. Pour a small amount of water over the candles to ensure that the flames have been completely extinguished.

Tips and Warnings

If there is snow on the ground, wrap the bottom of your luminaries in plastic wrap to prevent them from getting wet. Cut designs around the tops of the bags for added interest. Using a paper punch is the easiest way to do this, but you can also cut out your own design using an X-Acto knife. You can also make luminaries by using old soup cans with the labels removed. Punch decorative holes in the cans with nails for the best effect, then fill with sand and place a candle in the center. Luminaries should only be used outside and should be placed far away from buildings.

Things You'll Need

Paper bags, Sand or cat litter, Tea candles or votives, Matches, Lighter, Paper punch, Plastic wrap, X-Acto knife

About this Author

Jill Leviticus has been a writer for 20 years. She writes business, health and travel articles for several online publications and worked as a writer for a hospital and a nonprofit research foundation. Leviticus has a degree in journalism from Lock Haven University and works as a public relations writer.

Photo by: H. McGurgan

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