Modifications have been made to allow China's popular winter festival to go ahead due to small outbreaks of COVID-19 in nearby cities.

The 37th annual Harbin Snow and Ice Festival is taking place in the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin in Heilongjiang province. The first one took place in 1963 but the festival was stopped for a few years during the Cultural Revolution in China. Around 220,000 cubic meters of ice and snow are carved from the Songhua River to build the works of ice art each year, and they are moved by truck to the festival venue.

Illuminated ice sculptures at the Harbin Snow and Ice Festival in China
The ice sculptures are made from ice and snow carved from the Songhua River © VCG/VCG via Getty Images

The small outbreaks of COVID-19 occurred in the cities of Shenyang and Dalian, and they resulted in New Year's Eve celebrations and a fireworks display being canceled. The festival normally includes activities like sledding, ice football, speed skating, ice hockey and alpine skiing competitions, but events and performances have been canceled this year.

Illuminated ice sculptures at the Harbin Snow and Ice Festival in China
Visitors can still admire the works of ice art © VCG/VCG via Getty Images

One highlight of the festival was a snow-themed group wedding ceremony in which 40 couples were due to be married, but this was unable to go ahead this year. The festival area covers a vast 750,000 sq meters and the creations this year include a towering frozen ice palace, a crystal palace, an ice bar and a scale model of China's first aircraft carrier. The ice sculptures maintain their form due to the low temperatures experienced in Harbin during winter.

Illuminated ice sculptures at the Harbin Snow and Ice Festival in China
The festival area covers 750,000 sq meters © VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Visitors can still buy tickets to check out the works of ice art, but must present their health codes, wear masks, get their temperature measured and socially distance from others in the park. The festival will run this year until February 25.

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