Thursday, December 20, 2012

Snow Sculptures

Moomen in Snew, Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival
Photo by Rincewind42

Snow, more snow, even more snow! This is what you need if you want to build a snow village. In my hometown in Siberia, big trucks start bringing snow from suburbs to the city's main square starting from early December. As the permanent snow cover falls on in November, getting enough snow to build a little snow village is not a problem.

Snow can be as tough as stone, but first you have to tamp it down. Municipal workers put large wooden boxes in the place where the snow village is supposed to be and fill them up with snow. After some time, the snow in the boxes becomes more dense, and the workers continue to add more. Eventually, you get perfect snow cubes (parallelepipeds, being geometrically correct) of about three meter high. Now it's time for creative work. Snow artists take shovels, knifes and I don't know what else and make sculptures.

Every winter snow artists have a competition. The best snow sculpture is normally awarded a substantial prize, so artists try their best to make something beautiful, unusual and sophisticated. I saw a large number of witches (actually, a specific Russian witch named Baba Yaga), Moomins, huge snow cats, squirrels, mice, bears, wolves, steam trains and so on. However, there are the two New Year sculptures that are traditional: Ded Moroz (The Grandpa Frost) and his grand daughter Snegurochka (Snowgirl). Unlike Santa, Ded Moroz wears a long coat and long beard. Snegurochka also wears a long coat and a braid.

Beside sculptures, there are a few ice slides and little cottages in the snow village. An ice slide was my favourite winter entertainment when I was a kid. The last time I risked a slide was when I was 20. It was a New Year's party, and my friends came up with the idea to go to the ice slide. Well, I tore my nylon tights, but the delight of sliding down with a whoosh was worthy.

Normally, snow villages are decorated with lights. Winter is a dark season, so Christmas lights help the festive mood. Sometimes there is music, which makes it even better. Throughout winter, snow villages are favourite places to go.

Little by little, the temperature goes up, and snow starts melting. In order to avoid flooding, municipal services destroy snow villages and take the snow back to the suburbs. Usually it happens in mid March or even later, and by then snow sculptures become dirty and miserable.

Perhaps, snow villages are impractical and irrational. They eat up city budgets and take a lot of time and effort to build and maintain. But they bring magic to our lives, and municipal authorities know and respect that. Without these snow festivities, a New Year holiday would be just an ordinary day, dull and boring. This is why every year, no matter how hard living is, every Russian city erects its snow villages with a large Christmas tree and Ded Moroz and Snegurochka.