Great Snowmen in History

The first depiction of a snowman appear to be from a Dutch book called the  Book of Hours , likely published around 1380.

The first depiction of a snowman appear to be from a Dutch book called the Book of Hours, likely published around 1380.

Image of School Children Making a Snowman – 16 Nov 1952   Photo courtesy the Galt Museum & Archives: 19752911006

Image of School Children Making a Snowman – 16 Nov 1952

Photo courtesy the Galt Museum & Archives: 19752911006

A feminist response to the snowman tradition by Diane and Ted Buzunis (left) and Linda and Randy Coyle on the shore of Henderson Lake, 1971.   Photo courtesy the Galt Museum & Archives: 1991107615659

A feminist response to the snowman tradition by Diane and Ted Buzunis (left) and Linda and Randy Coyle on the shore of Henderson Lake, 1971.

Photo courtesy the Galt Museum & Archives: 1991107615659

It’s unknown exactly when people started building snowmen. There are few snowmen that last more than one season. The first depiction of a snowman appears to be from a Dutch book called the Book of Hours, likely published around 1380. During the Middle Ages, building snowmen was a way for a community to do something fun during a harsh winter.

In 1511, the people of Brussels created over 100 snowmen in a public art show known as the Miracle of 1511. People enjoyed strolling through town to see the snowmen.

Making snowmen is popular around the world. For over 30 years in Sapporo, Japan, the Sapporo Snow Festival has involved the creation of over 12,000 miniature snowmen. There is also a snow festival called Bischofsgrun held every February in Germany, which features a huge snowman named “Jacob.” In Zurich, Switzerland, a giant snowman called the Böögg is plugged with firecrackers and detonated to the delight of the cheering crowd.

The current record for the world’s biggest snowman goes to a snow-woman named Olympia, created in 2008 by the townsfolk of Bethel, Maine, and named for the state senator Olympia Snowe. Built in a month-long plow fest, the 122-foot-tall conical snow-woman was decked in massive snowflake jewels and six-foot-long eyelashes.

The Galt Museum & Archives will be hosting a community program for all ages to create winter art on Saturday, January 26 from 1 to 2 pm. You can also visit www.galtmuseum.com to see some of the images of winter in Lethbridge and snowmen from our archives.