Around The World Cities Of Ice

The word “festival” came to Turkish from the Latin word “festivus” briefly means carnival, entertainment, and feast. As we look at the festivals in Turkey and around the World nowadays, we can call “pre-planned art, culture, entertainment shows series” for the special headlines like the geographical structure of the region, its cultural inheritance, beliefs, a specific product or food.

The increase in the number of people who plan their travels according to the festival’s dates clearly shows the importance of the festivals today. The festivals, which have very beautiful and important functions in order to show the history, traditions and customs of the region, their cultural values, and even turn the geographical structure to advantage of which is seen as disadvantage, and transfer them from generation to generation, take place under different topics in many countries in the world. And in these winter days which the day time is shorter, gets darker earlier and the sun heating us is seen less, we wanted to talk about the winter festivals in the world and in our country, ice and snow sculptures which will enrich our eyes upon, and the richness and colorfulness added to these regions by the different life styles and climate conditions.  We wanted to start from Russia and China and take you to Çıldır Lake

To International Harbin Ice and Snow Festival…
Even the activities start slowly from the middle of December, especially on Christmas time, The festival, which officially started on January 5 and continued until the end of February, welcomes its visitors for the 35th time this year. With its giant snow sculptures, skiing and swimming races in the Songhua River, lighthouse regiments and concerts, it promises approximately 10 to 15 million visitors a colorful and filled winter festival. In the snow sculpture section of the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, some sculptures exceed 40 meters. Even when considering snow or ice sculptures, many world records were broken here. For example, the Kremlin sculpture in 2015 was 48 meters high. Nearly 10,000 workers work on carrying and cutting snow blocks in the festival. Artists begin to make sculptures from mid-december for the festival, which is full of winter activities; pure water is used for ice parts that give a glass appearance. What makes Harbin different from all other festivals in the world such as Sapparo in Japan, Norway and Canada Quebec is the illumination of the snow sculptures as well as the latest technology. Sculptures are made with LED lights including computer controlled different light and color games and animations.

Light and Color Games
Festival events take place in 4 different theme parks. But beware tickets for each venue and the appropriate visiting hours are different. For example, it is more convenient to visit the sculptures in the Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Expo during the daytime. It will be more enjoyable to visit The Ice and Snow World, with larger sculptures such as palaces or the Great Wall of China, in the evening, where light plays can be watched. The Zhaolin Park Ice Lantern Fair Park with its magical atmosphere and the Wanda Ice Lantern World are among the most preferred areas for families with children, as there are inner illuminated ice lanterns, animal or mystical figures, and an area for sled skate.

Although the city of Harbin is located at the borders of China, it is a hybrid city that has melted Chinese and Russian cultures in a pot. The city is known as “Little Moscow”, even if it is several kilometers away from Moscow and 5 hour time difference between them. Because the Russians, who fled the Bolshevik regime and settled in these lands some 100 years ago, established a mixed culture. You can see the intense Russian influence in the city’s local cuisine, as well as in souvenirs and architecture. Talking about architecture, how about wandering around the city’s streets smelling history? Perhaps the most important historical building from the refugees fleeing Russia is the Church of Hagia Sophia, which is an Orthodox church. The building can be visited today as a history museum. Also it can be counted as the things to do to walk around the shops and the souvenir shops in Zhongyang Street which dates back to 1900s and closed to car traffic. It is also possible to find Western-style food as there are Russian or Chinese dishes for dining on this street. There are cafes and bars for those who are too cold, want to have a warm break or who want to taste Harbin’s 100-year-old beer. Even though festival events take place in 4 main locations, it won’t be surprising for you’re to see ice sculptures on Zhonyang Street, on the riverside or in front of the Hagia Sophia Church. The Songhua River and its surroundings are also a fairground, which has swimming races in it within the scope of the festival. On the river, which has become an ice rink since it was frozen, such activities as dog sleds, horse-drawn carriages, battery-powered little cars, bicycles attract the attention of both locals and tourists. Briefly, Harbin offers winter lovers a combination of art and entertainment in cultural and historical background.

Russian Winter Festival Warming People’s Inside In The Freezing Cold Of Moscow
Let’s go to the Real Moscow, instead of Little Moscow, to the Russian Winter Festival. The Russian Winter Festival, held every year from mid-december to mid-january, is a great opportunity to meet the New Year. In fact, Russia has winter festivals in many regions on the same date due to the climate of the winter season. The Russian Winter Festival in Moscow is one of the most popular of them. Russians also show great interest in the festival, which hosts tens of thousands of visitors from different countries of the world. The festival includes a full festive atmosphere as it includes the Russian Christmas, the Russian New Year and the celebrations of the Saint Svyatki Days. In the days of the Russian Winter Festival, Moscow turning into a real wonderland that gives pleasure in the cold days while shining with ornaments that illuminate the dark winter evenings, the festival offers a great opportunity to discover and experience Russian culture through food, drink, music, dance, art, craft, play and other activities.

The Christmas Fair at the Red Square during the festival creates a great atmosphere with its colourful appearance. It is a great place to buy traditional Russian Christmas presents from Russian matryoshka first comes to mind, to wooden toys, from lacquer painted boxes to Russian scarf which warms people’s inside and to valenky which is even resistant to Moscow’s cold. Russian Winter Festival is a good opportunity to try traditional Russian dishes such as bagel bread, jam and tea but the most attractive one is to see the examples of a Russian ice sculpture that is beyond the borders.  From sculptures of symbols of Russian culture to an animal, cathedral sculptures, huge ice sculptures stop your breath. A giant ice chess game has become an integral part of the Russian Winter Festival. When you walk among the ice sculptures, you can see Ded Moroz, the Russian’s Santa Claus, who is differentiated by his embroidered clothing. It won’t be good not to share with the spiritual evolution of Ded Moroz who was a bad wizard kidnapping kid and demanding ransom before.  Moreover, the Santa Claus of Russia is not alone like other Santas. Ded Moroz never leaves “Snegurochka” the snow girl known as his granddaughter. You will never know what aspects of Russian culture you will meet at the Russian Winter Festival where you will find another surprise, another fun, another feeling in every corner!

Winter Festival in Quebec, the Largest State in Canada
The Quebec Winter Festival in Quebec, the largest province in Canada, known for its cold weather in North America, welcomes thousands of tourists every year in january and february. The main name of the festival in the French language is Carnaval de Québec but don’t worry if you don’t speak French because everybody knows and speaks English. The festival, which took place in 1894, was held at regular intervals until 1955. Since 1955 even it has been named as the Bonhomme Carnival, today it is one of the top ten most famous festivals in the world as the Quebec Winter Festival. Bonhomme is the mascot and official representative of the festival. Bonhomme, a snowman with his red cap in whites, represents the heroism of the past generations. You can come across Bonhomme in festival areas, an ice palace, in short, all over the city, and get your camera ready. Since the beginning of January, preparations start in Quebec City the capital city of the state. Ice sculptures carved by architects, places where national flavors are tasted are built; a huge movement and entertainment season is starting for the public. Red beret snowmen all around the city are especially children’s greatest entertainment. There are so many activities and colorful festivals to be seen waiting for you at the Quebec Winter Festival. The parade of sparkling fireworks and ice sculptures on the opening night is like a unique visual show that will warm you up despite the cold of the weather.

Each year since 1955, the city’s famous architects came together to make the Ice Palace which is one of the most interesting festival symbols. The palace, which is also considered as the official residence of Bonhomme, is located just opposite the Quebec Parliament Building. Don’t be surprised that you will often meet Bonhomme in the Ice Palace. Engraved snow and ice sculptures are art masterpieces which show how endless man’s extraordinary dexterity and imagination are. Every year thousands of local and foreign tourists come to see just these statues as they visit the historical city and bring great vitality to the economy and the agenda. Dog sled racing, canoeing tournaments on the frozen St Laurence River, giant ice-park and playgrounds set up in the city square offer exciting and fun alternatives for families in winter and show pleasant living spaces in cold climate.

Çıldır for the Ones Who Say Necessarily My Country
We are very fortunate to be living in the geography where many events can be held in four seasons. In our country, Çıldır Lake which is in Çıldır District of Ardahan Province located in Eastern Anatolia Region and one of the biggest freshwater lakes of Turkey, is hosting the International Çıldır Lake Winter Festival When the feeling of peace and simplicity of white and the life and hope-giving image of blue are combined, you will not get enough of watching Çıldır Lake. A frozen and white top lake between the mountains surrounding itself. Natural igloos, horse sleighs, and black horses garnished in every color, and a shabby fisherman looking at them from a little bit above. The man thinks he’s in heaven, dressed in white. If you think that every season of the year, the fishing will be interrupted in the cold until the minus forty in winter, you should see the “carp fish” which were hunted by opening a hole on ice in Çıldır Lake. While the festival which is made on the Çıldır Lake the only Freezing lake of Turkey, was before a national festival made by the local citizens and the organizations, federations, municipalities and other constitutions, today, thanks to the ease of transportation and especially with the option of transportation by airlines, it has become an international festival, which is popular with foreign tourists from many different countries. The Çıldır Lake Winter Festival is organized every year according to the thickness and quality of ice. To make the festival on the lake, the ice thickness should be 40 cm. For this, usually the best time is february. The snow and the desired thickness of the ice are very important for the people of the region who make great gains in the material and spiritual sense from the festival. Although the weather and snow, ice, and perhaps ice are perceived as great distress for the western population, it is very important for Çıldır to contribute to the economy of the city as well as for the fun of the people.

On the Ice Horseback Javelin Shows
It is admirable for the festival which has a great mission on local people and the local tourists to know the values of the region, to introduce the Eastern Region of Turkey to the foreign tourists.  Because of the festival bringing an important vitality to not only Çıldır, but also the cities of Kars and Ardahan, the richness of the region is coming to light. Kars kashar cheese, Ardahan Damal baby, Kars goose, Ardahan honey and many other products are purchased from domestic and foreign tourists and an added-value economy is emerging. Thanks to concerts and competitions, people who are more entertained by feeling themselves part of the festival, are starting to make festival plans for the next year. Besides the snowmobile, the lake tour with the sleigh will definitely be one of the most memorable experiences in your life. In particular, if you coincide with the sleigh driver Tuncay Aydemir, the dose of the conversation will warm your heart. In addition to being able to transport by land and air, railway experience is also an important factor in the privilege of the International Çıldır Festival. Coming to Kars with the Nostalgic Eastern Express train, along the way, seeing many cities along with the ever-changing landscapes and sipping your tea, and having a chat with your favorite companions is one of the most popular reasons for the festival. 40 km from Kars-Çıldır Lake. and if you have a car or a crowded group with a bus ride, you can have a very white journey.



  • World’s most famous snow and ice festivals;
  • Harbin International Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival, CHINA
  • Krasnoyarsk International Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival, RUSSIA
  • Ice On Whyte Festival, Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA
  • Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido, Japan
  • Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Festival, Breckenridge, Colorado, USA
  • Quebec Winter Festival, CANADA
  • International Ice Sculpture Festival, Jelgava, LATVIA
  • BP World Ice Art Championship, Alaska, USA
  • Snowking Winter Festival, Territories, CANADA
  • Ice Music Festival, Geilo, NORWAY

Harbin Winter Festival: A Splendid Feast Spread Over An Area Of 600 Thousand M2
Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province, which is the northernmost of China, is one of the cities where the winter conditions are most challenging and Siberia effect is felt most intensely. In winter the average temperature is around -17 degrees, decreasing to -38 degrees. This is why it is home to one of the biggest winter festivals. Gorky Central Culture and Leisure Park, which is frequented by the Moscow People, is also part of the Russian Winter Festival. Since the main entrance of the park is right next to the metro station’s exit, transportation is also quite easy. The park is named after the famous writer Maxim Gorky, and extends to the edges of the Moscow River. The park, where you dive into the colorful world of flowers in spring, is covered with a green blanket in the summer and takes on white in the winter months. In the park it is also possible to skate in the serenity of the white. The park is decorated with ice sculptures at the festival, even it is very beautiful in the day, it is sparkling under the lights of the night.

Krasnoyarsk International Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival 
If you have seen the Russian Winter Festival in Moscow or if you say that you are good with cold, we recommend the Krasnoyarsk International Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival in Siberia, which is on the list of the most famous festivals in the world. The charming atmosphere of the ice and snow festival in Krasnoyarsk, Russia is breathtaking. In the festival where the gigantic ice sculptures, buildings, slides and chateaus are exhibited, while some of the professional ice sculptors create their sculptures with the latest laser technologies, others reveal their art with the oldest ice carving techniques. The Krasnoyarsk International Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival is the only festival in which snow and ice sculptors compete. But for those attending the festival, the main surprise is the sculpture competitions organized among families and children. A very special opportunity to awaken your inner ability… On the ice-rising Çıldır Lake, horseback javelin shows, Caucasian dances, sleigh races and a variety of animations are made and a festival of colors is presented to the participants.

By: Banu Tozluyurt

Photo : Aykut Fırat – Selim Taman – Vacit Arman

*This article was  published in the  January– February issue of Marmara Life. 

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