Ignoring sub-zero temperatures and biting Siberian winds, 400 swimmers plunged into an icy river in China’s northern city of Harbin on the first day of the 2017 International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. Winter swimming, as it is known in China, is believed to be beneficial for health by many middle-aged and elderly people, who are seen participating in large numbers.
The event in China’s northeastern province of Heilongjiang attracts people from across the country as well as abroad. The fact that this is one of the coldest places in China (where the temperature is known to fall even below -35 Celsius) does not stop people from competing in an icy pool cut into the frozen Songhua river.
According to a report by Reuters, Yu Dongbo, a 51-year-old visitor, said he is very excited and his body feels “super cool” after the plunge. The festival kicked off on January 5 and goes on till the end of February. In addition to swimming, the festival has other attractions that are getting the crowds excited. According to a China Mail report, ice sailing and mass wedding ceremonies are among the other events attracting people from across the world.
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In addition to ice rides and winter swimming, icy creations and sculptures that resembled famous historical figures and landmarks are also common sights at the festival. Reportedly, one such landmark is Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa.
A similar New Year’s Eve tradition is observed by many people around the world. They end the year (and begin the next) by taking a dive into an icy cold body of water. Interestingly, their reason for doing so, is to ‘wipe the slate clean’ and start the year afresh.