Gene Autry and the Cass Country Boys were really onto something with the 1950 rendition of “Frosty the Snowman.” The storyline caught on and it has piqued children’s imagination over the last 62 years as a song, story and even a cartoon movie.
We in Tooele Valley haven’t had much opportunity to create Frosty’s compatriots this year — but hope springs eternal. These cold, white men, women and children appear on front lawns everywhere, and they sometimes appear as families or even communities. In fact, why stop there? Snow is a great building block for lots of things — snowballs, snow forts (ostensibly to ward off snowballs as ammunition) and various animals.
My personal wish list this winter includes plenty of the raw materials (snow) to assemble such beings. Of course, it’s not likely that I will actually venture out to fashion any of these creations. I remember a winter as a youngster when the snow fell deep and the wind pushed it into heaps that covered fences. Then the air turned cold and the outside froze. It was perfect for burrowing into to make a little snow cave. We had one in the back yard. It was the ultimate snow house in our opinion.
I looked up “snowman” online to see what I could find out about it and came across this definition: “A snowman is an anthropomorphic snow sculpture.” Someone somewhere has looked for historical evidence as to the origins of snow people. How would you ever document something like that? These creations by definition leave no archeological evidence and there would be no written records back further than about the 1300s.
I suspect that as soon as man found out that snow with the right water content could be molded, he started making shapes and forms out of it. If you spent your winters where there is snow, you would likely do something like that. The whole thing is just a lark. Could there be cave picture depictions of snowmen? Perhaps the fun in it is what has made snowmen so popular as Christmas decorations. It is pretty well understood where traditions like Christmas trees, stars, lights, candy canes and so on came from. They were either born of symbolic ideas or symbols were attached to them later. But snowmen are different. They come about because of the association of snow and cold with the month of December. The real thing is fun and fleeting. Every one of them allows for a later do-over.
We don’t really do them justice here. Some areas have annual snow-sculpture festivals. The sculptures are true works of art and although they are not permanent, they can last for weeks to months, depending on the inclination of the weather. If it gets into a really prolonged cold snap, they turn to ice and hold their shape for a very long time.
If you can’t have the real thing, why not make a substitute? There are plenty of them out there. Although they are a seasonal decorating theme, they are not limited to Christmas. Snowmen are just as much in vogue in January as December.
There are the edible kind — Rice Krispies formed into balls, stacked together and held by toothpicks and decorated with candies, cut cookie varieties also decorated with candies, and marshmallows stacked and decorated with candies. As decorations, the palette is much wider. Entire houses are festooned with them. They may be made from wood, stuffed cloth balls, metal or ceramics. They show up as pictures on stockings, towels, sweatshirts, tee shirts, curtains and wall hangings. The imagination is the only limitation.
The “classic shape” is a stack of balls of varying sizes but they can show up as elongated or rounded shapes. The thing they have in common is a face and usually a hat and scarf. They can take on great personalities. Some have stick arms while others don’t.
Enjoy the winter and the weather that comes with it. With any luck we’ll get more snow. And if you feel the urge to build snowmen, I’d be happy to share snow from my front lawn with you.