January 2014 – In the Chicago area, after snow following snow for the last month, we are bracing for some really cold weather arriving very soon, with lows dipping below -20F! Yes, that is cold for Chicago!
However, that’s a very common occurrence in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province in China during January, where below 0 temperatures are common in January. It is said that as early as the 17th Century, during the Qing Dynasty, local fishermen often made “ice lanterns” to use as jacklights. The set up was perfect: Make a big chunk of ice, carve a hollow tunnel within it, stand up, insert a candle, and voilà! A wind-proof candle that could be seen for miles!
The idea caught on quite fast, and soon, during the winter months, these ice lanterns could be seen lighting the entrance to houses. Over the years, those with an artistic flair began shaping the lanterns, and eventually, lighting the lanterns with different colored-candles. By the mid-1960s, many families along the Songhua River were carving elaborate ice statues and displaying them for everyone to see. This led to the first annual Harbin Ice Festival in 1963, where local folk were encouraged to enter their creations and compete for best of show.
In the years that followed, this movement become one of the major tourist attractions in China. The Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, which starts on January 5th each year, features five magnificent ice-sculptured events: The Sun Island Park Festival, The Ice and Snow World, the Zhaolin Park Festival, the Ice Lantern Garden Party and the Yabuli International Ski Resort Festival. The tours are breathtaking.
We may not be able to visit the magnificence of the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival this year, but why not take advantage of the cold weather we are experiencing, and showcase your best family creations?
- Ice cube trays, bowls, buckets, balloons or a.n.y.t.h.i.n.g that can hold water
- Food coloring
Mix and carefully take outside to freeze. When frozen, unmold and begin building! Want to get more creative?
- Stick a straw in the bowl before freezing. When semi-frozen, remove the straw and then pour different colored water.
- Use “slush” (semi-frozen water) to “cement” the different unmolded parts together!
- Put bright lights or colored Holiday lights behind the sculptures to showcase your amazing creations!
Check out these fabulous how-to sites to inspire you to make the most amazing Harbin-like ice sculptures!