The Krampus Kalendar: S is for SNOWMEN

Thursday 19 December 2019

The creation of anthropomorphic sculptures formed from atmospheric water vapour frozen into ice crystals – more commonly known as a snowmen – is a popular pastime during the winter months... if it snows. Your typical snowman is made from two or three large snowballs, with sticks, pieces of coal, vegetables, and items of clothing being added to help create the illusion that they are in fact people.

There are documented records of snowmen being built since Medieval times – the earliest being an illustration in the margin of one of the pages of the 1380 Book of Hours, that resides in Koninklijke Bibliotheek, in The Hague – but it is likely that the practice dates back to the Neolithic period. After all, the representation of the human form, in no matter what medium, is as old as human beings themselves. Since Neolithic peoples painted the inside of caves with scenes of hunts, as well as those of everyday life, and stone age artists carved sculptures of the Earth Goddesses from the material that gave them their name, why wouldn’t they also have used snow to create effigies of the human form (when the weather conditions permitted)?

As snow can be sculpted without the need for tools, it would have been a very appealing material to work in. Ice-age man sought to create images of the idealised human form, which for him meant the maternal, female form – the voluptuous, well-endowed shape of Mother Earth herself. So it is highly likely that the snow sculptures we describe as snowmen actually started out as snowwomen. (It’s uncertain when snowballs were introduced.)

25,000 years later, and we’re still building human figures out of snow, but only if the snow is of the right consistency. As it approaches its melting point snow becomes moist and is more easily compacted, allowing for the construction of large snowballs simply by rolling. Powdered snow will not stick to itself and so is not an ideal building material for snowmen. The best time to build a snowman is the next warm afternoon following a heavy snowfall.

The snowman doubtless became a part of the Christmas festivities, not just because of the wintery time of year at which those celebrations took place, but as part of Christianity’s mass assimilation of seasonal pagan practices, such as the Christmas tree and Father Christmas.

I'm sure it won't surprise anybody to learn that snowmen appear in 'TWAS - The Krampus Night Before Christmas, and they will also appear in 'TWAS - The Roleplaying Game Before Christmas, which is into its final two days of funding on Kickstarter.


To find out more about the festive season and its many traditions, order your copy of the Chrismologist's Christmas Explained: Robins, Kings and Brussel Sprouts today!

The book is also available in the United States as Christmas Miscellany: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Christmas.



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