Photo Source: Pixabay
Whenever there’s a snow day on my campus, my favorite part of the free, weather-related day off, besides sledding down hills, is admiring snowmen. Whenever I’m walking home from the library or a friend’s house, there is always at least one snowman. Sometimes they’re giant, evidence of a great group effort. Other times, they’re about half a body tall. Sometimes, it’s literally just a mound of snow with sticks stuffed in it. Nevertheless, there’s something extremely cool about these frozen figures. It turns out that I’m not alone, as humankind has been enamored with them for longer than you may think.
No one knows exactly when people started building snowmen, but there has been evidence of them dating back since the Middle Ages (Reader’s Digest). Snowmen were sculpted with a lot of care, and it would even be a past time for couples to stroll around and check out other artists’ work. Even Michelangelo, the great Renaissance artist, was commissioned by the ruler of Florence in 1494 to create a snowman for his personal courtyard. Sometimes, snowmen were used for political reasons. For instance, the Belgian townspeople teamed up in 1511 to create 100 snowmen in the “Miracle of 1511” (Atlas Obscura). The snowmen were to let off some steam and take some swipes at the government in the wake of weeks worth of freezing cold temperatures. Some snowmen were of humiliated kings, parodies of folkloric figures, or exceptionally pornographic snow sculptures.
Today, we still have all sorts of traditions to keep the building of snowmen alive. For instance, in Zurich, Switzerland, the townspeople herald the coming of spring by creating a giant cotton snowman and stuffing it with dynamite (Reader’s Digest). It is then paraded through town as the paraders throw bread and sausage into the crowd. After the parade, the snowman is blown up. Allegedly, the shorter the explosion, the longer the summer will be.
There are also plenty of snowman and snow sculpture competitions, both in the United States and internationally. For instance, Pierce county, Washington throws a snowman-building competition every year at a local ice rink (Pierce County). The best snowmen receive a trophy and a free admission to the ice rink. Some snow sculpting competitions, like the one in Vulcan Park, Minnesota, awards the first place winner with an invitation to represent the respective state in the national snow sculpting championship, which also can lead to the international snow sculpting championship held in Breckenridge, Colorado. These snow sculptures are great works of art, featuring creative and interesting works of art such as birds or even a snowplow taking down a snowman (I’ll include a video recap of the most recent international snow sculpture competition below this piece).
Snowmen are one of the best things that winter has to offer. The fact that we can create big, temporary statues of people is just awesome. Sometimes they’re made for fun, for competition, for a political statement, or for simply art’s sake. Next time the snow comes down a little harder this winter, definitely take the time to build a snowman. It’s a wonderful winter pastime.