For the second year in a row, Mexico City has opened a massive ice skating rink, occupying nearly half of the city’s main Zocalo plaza.

The rink, a popular and free winter pastime, saw nearly 4 million visitors last year.

This year’s rink was inaugurated with tremendous fanfare on Saturday night as crowds packed the square to see the spectacle.

In addition to the rink, this year’s decorations also include a large brilliantly lit 50 meter high Christmas tree and a toboggan run complete with fake snow.

Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard contends that the rink, which is funded by private donations, provides a way for the many poor of Mexico City to enjoy some of the same winter activities as the wealthy.

“It’s a very beneficial thing they’re doing, that the government is organizing this sort of thing for the people who don’t have the opportunity to do it in a place where it would cost them money,” said Marcos Lucero, a Mexico City resident who brought his family to attend the inauguration of the ice rink.

While the rink admission as well as the skates are free to visitors, the waiting time for the world’s largest outdoor rink often runs to several hours. [via]