The History of the Snowman


Art by Julia Boboc

Severyn Pavlyk (he/him), Staff Writer

Snow has been the frozen play-doh of the world’s inhabitants for thousands of years, but where and when did the symbolic snow people become a tradition? 

The three spherical balls of snow, a carrot nose, and a toothy smile made of stones, are features often envisioned when you think of snow people. Believe it or not, as the world advances in knowledge and artistry, the snow people have lost their complexity. 

It had been recorded that 19-year-old Michelangelo made sculptures out of snow for Piero, the ruler of Florence. These likely resembled a sculpture aesthetic, but nonetheless, they were people fashioned out of snow.

An early illuminated manuscript of an antisemitic snow-person was the first recorded illustration found, dating back to the 1380s. Bob Eckstein, the author of “The History of the Snowman” believes that crude snow people were being made by neanderthals long before the first documented illustration was found. 

The political history of snow people is especially apparent when looking at the timeline. The “Miracle of 1511” was a festival located in Brussels (a region within Belgium), which enticed the locals to build 110 snow people. Many of these snow people were sexually explicit, poking fun at the church, with some locals using this medium as a way of expressing their frustrations with the church’s power. 

Lower class citizens within the hierarchical system used the snow people as a form of protest against the wage gap and the power of the church held.  This was due to the rapid increase in population and the six-week-long cold spell, making work much more difficult.

It has even been recorded that the economic classes would destroy each others’ snow people . This in turn caused a winter- long war of murdered snow people from both classes, rich and poor. The battle concluded once spring arrived and the King of France donated 1000 gold coins to the townspeople. This rich history has prevailed, being a day to celebrate music and the joy of winter for many years to come. 

Fast forward to 1999, a snowman’s construction began in Bethel, Maine, by the name of “Angus”. The snowman had buttons made of truck tires spanning five feet in diameter, and arms made of giant trees. Angus stood a whopping 113’ 7” (10 stories high) and weighed 8,000,000 pounds! 

As time went on, Bethel was tired of seeing male snow people; so in the name of feminism, they broke their previous record. “Olympia” was constructed in 2008, a snow woman towering over residents of Maine at 122’1” feet (11 stories high) and weighing almost double its predecessor Angus, totaling 13,000,000 pounds. She gazed over the hills of Bethel with a 100 foot scarf around her neck, and skis for eyelashes. Bethel still holds the record to this day, making a snow woman the tallest snow person ever recorded.

Snow people have a richer history than you may have thought. People have been insanely creative with a white medium (hopefully excluding yellow snow). This spirited tradition uniting communities symbolizes an expression of creativity we have as human beings. . 

Next time you see Frosty with his scarf and carrot nose, remember the wholesome history spanning centuries back in our history. When it snows, go outside and make a snowperson, keep the frozen history alive!

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