Photos: 2018 Snow and Ice Festival in Harbin, China

If you live in northeastern China, you expect long, cold winters. The residents of Harbin don't just tolerate the cold, however; they embrace it. The city of 10 million is home to the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, which claims to be the largest ice festival in the world. Even with temperatures typically close to zero, crowds of people head to city parks to see giant ice sculptures, many bathed in coloured lights.

The 34th festival, which officially opened Friday, features several thousand sculptures, some depicting famous buildings or monuments. This year's display includes one of Red Square, a landmark in the Russian capital of Moscow.

It takes about 10,000 workers to build the sculptures, which are made of snow and ice blocks from the nearby Songhua River.

Visitors can climb ice stairways, walk through ice tunnels and shoot down ice slides. They can also take part in sporting events, including hockey, skating and even ice swimming.

The city started its icy event in 1963 with the Ice Lantern Garden Party, a celebration of the tradition of creating lanterns out of hollowed-out blocks of ice. The larger festival began in 1985 and added sculptures, which have grown in number and size over the years. The city holds the Guinness World Record for the largest snow sculpture, a 656-foot-long and 115-foot-tall landscape created at the 2007 festival.

As it has gotten bigger, the festival has become popular outside the region. Hundreds of thousands of visitors attend each year, according to the tourism agency that promotes the event.

The Harbin Ice Festival runs through February or, if Mother Nature doesn't cooperate, until the sculptures melt.

The Washington Post