If you live in one of the coldest cities on Earth, you might as well embrace the frigid weather. That’s just what the people of Harbin, China, do. The city of more than 5 million people has become known for a huge winter festival that brings people outside day and night.

The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, which officially opened Sunday, celebrates creativity and activities that require freezing temperatures. Sculptors carve mountains of snow into elaborate scenes. Others assemble giant structures from ice blocks cut out of the Songhua River. Visitors can walk through reproductions of huge temples, towers and historic buildings that are bathed in colored light. There’s also skating, skiing and, for the daring, outdoor swimming.

For the 36th annual show, it’s expected to be warmer than usual. For the next week, that means temperatures in the teens during the day and just below zero at night. The million or so people expected to visit the festival don’t hope for a winter warm spell, however. Last year, the festival shut down about 10 days ahead of the scheduled end-of-February closing. So visitors bundle up, hoping to see the elaborate creations before Mother Nature eventually turns them into a melty mess.

— Christina Barron



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