Yukon woman's ice menorah celebrates light of Hanukkah in the North

As Hanukkah begins Thursday evening, one Yukon woman will be lighting a colourful ice menorah she built in her front yard.

Elise Maltin has been building ice menorahs for more than a decade

Elise Maltin has been building ice menorahs in the North for roughly 15 years. (Elyn Jones/CBC)

As Hanukkah begins this week, one Yukoner will be lighting a menorah with a northern twist.

Elise Maltin has been crafting "ice menorahs" for the last 15 years. She got the idea from her friends in Yellowknife who would make large ice menorahs on their front lawn.

"I live in the North where we have the shortest days of the winter. And [Hanukkah] is a celebration of light and the miracle of it," said Maltin, who called it a "wonderful coincidence."

Maltin makes her candle holders by freezing water and food colouring in objects like milk cartons and star moulds.

The nine candles of Maltin's ice menorah lit up for display. Maltin will light one candle per night during Hanukkah. (Elyn Jones/CBC)

She usually starts building her menorah about a week before Hanukkah begins. But fluctuating weather can mean trouble for her ice creations.

"Some years I start early and then everything melts," she said.

This year, she tried burying her ice candle holders in a plastic tote bag under the snow.

To her delight, it worked.

Maltin will light the first candle at sundown on Thursday. As per tradition, she will light another candle for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah.

"The story, historically, is freedom over oppression and lightness over darkness," said Maltin.

Elise Maltin crafted her ice menorah by freezing water and food colouring in different moulds, including milk cartons. (Elyn Jones/CBC)

Matlin got her idea years ago from Miki Ehrlich's family, who have been making ice menorahs in Yellowknife for nearly 20 years.

Ehrlich said the ice menorah "makes sense," symbolizing both Hanukkah and where they live.

"It's a beautiful outdoor way to celebrate the holiday and decorate our yard, similar to what our neighbours are doing for Christmas in our own style," Ehrlich said.

Maltin won't have her annual Hanukkah party due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But she plans to celebrate with friends in her social bubble and video call family.

Usually, she says, her Hanukkah is about kids and gathering with others. She usually makes potato latkes and plays the dreidel game.

"As an adult I do it more for my friends and their kids," she said.

"And just to show that there's other holidays that go on this time of the year."

Maltin uses molds, including milk cartons, and food colouring to create her menorah each year. (Elyn Jones/CBC)

Written by Laura Howells with files from Elyn Jones and Yukon Morning