Ever wonder where snowmen came from? Or why they're a common decoration during Christmas? Snowmen were being built by humans long before Frosty The Snowman made its media debut in the late 1960s. You might be surprised to learn that snowmen were once a form of artistic expression (due to the low cost and easy accessibility of materials) and have since gained international popularity. As you'll soon learn, snowpeople around the world don't always have the traditional corncob pipe, button nose, and two eyes made out of coal.
Early snowman documentation has been discovered as far back as the Middle Ages. In The History of the Snowman, author Bob Eckstein found the snowman’s earliest known depiction in an illuminated manuscript of the Book of Hours from 1380 in the Koninkijke Bibliotheek in The Hague, Netherlands. Snowmen built in the Middle Ages were considered an art form rather than children's play as they are today. For example, in 1494, the ruler of Florence, Italy commissioned Michelangelo to create a statue of snow for his mansion's courtyard. In 1511, the people of Brussels, Belgium constructed over 100 snowmen in a public art installation known as the Miracle of 1511. These snowmen were often parodies of characters, such as mermaids, unicorns, and village idiots, or resembled politicians and other figures that the townspeople were dissatisfied with.
Snowmen were not synonymous with the traditional Christmas holiday until the early Victorian era, when Price Albert introduced German holiday traditions to England. Santa Claus and snowmen were soon depicted hand in hand during Christmas.
As a popular symbol of winter and the holiday season, snowmen are celebrated around the world at various snowman festivals and contests. Every February the Bischofsgrün Snowman Festival (aka Schneemannfest), is held in Bavaria, and features “Jacob" - Germany's HUGE (and quite dirty) snowman.
In the German town of Weinheim-an-der-Bergstrasse, the mayor leads a parade through the town at the annual Rose Sunday Festival. At the end of the parade the townspeople incinerate a straw snowman to welcome the beginning of Spring.
The World Record for the largest snowman belongs to the country where everything is supersized - The US! In 2008, a 122- foot tall snowlady was built in Bethel, Maine and modeled after Maine state senator, Olympia Snowe. She took a month to create and even has her own snowflake jewels and six foot long eyelashes. Oh and her arms are full grown pine trees.
Even places that don't get snow still manage to get snowmen. Every December in California, Sonoma Valley hosts the Lighting of the Snowman Festival. Creating hundreds of snowmen would be near impossible in this virtually snow-less region - so Californians compensate by plugging in hundreds of electrical ones.
The Japanese city of Sapporo, in the Hokkaido region, has hosted the Sapporo Snow Festival where an infestation of 12,000 mini snowmen cluster in a field, wearing messages from their makers. These snowmen look a little different from your typical Frosty as they are made with only two snow balls instead of three. They're also adorned with little eyebrows and look seriously upset.
If we do see a lot of snow this winter (in my personal opinion I hope that we don't) maybe you could try building a Japanese snowman... they are pretty cute.