A snowman is an anthropomorphic snow sculpture often built by children in regions with sufficient snowfall. In North America, typical snowmen consist of three large snowballs of different sizes with some additional accoutrements for facial and other features. Common accessories include branches for arms and a rudimentary smiley face, with a carrot standing in for a nose. Human clothing, such as a hat or scarf, may be included. Low-cost and availability are the common issues, since snowmen are usually abandoned to the elements once completed.
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Snow becomes suitable for packing when it approaches its melting point and becomes moist and compact. Making a snowman of powdered snow is difficult since it will not stick to itself, and if the temperature of packing snow drops, it will form an unusable denser form of powdered snow called crust. Thus, the best time to build a snowman is usually in the next warm afternoon directly following a snowfall with a sufficient amount of snow. Using more compact snow allows for the construction of a large snowball by simply rolling it until it grows to the desired size. If the snowball reaches the bottom of the grass it may pick up traces of grass, gravel or dirt.
In Europe and North America, snowmen are built with three spheres depicting the head, torso, and lower body. The usual practice is to then decorate and optionally dress the snowman. Sticks can be used for arms, and a face is traditionally made with stones or coal for eyes and a carrot for a nose. Some like to dress their snowmen in clothing such as a scarf or hat, while others prefer not to risk leaving supplies out doors where they could easily be stolen or become stuck under melting ice.
There are variations to these standard forms; for instance, the popular song "Frosty the Snowman" describes a snowman being decorated with a corncob pipe, button nose, coal eyes and an old silk hat (usually depicted as a top hat). These other types range from snow columns to elaborate snow sculptures similar to ice sculptures.
Documentation of the first snowman is unclear. However, Bob Eckstein, author of The History of the Snowman documented snowmen from medieval times, by researching artistic depictions in European museums, art galleries, and libraries. The earliest documentation he found was a marginal illustration from a work titled Book of Hours from 1380, found in Koninklijke Bibliotheek, in The Hague.
Snowmen are a popular theme for Christmas and winter decorations and also in children's media. A famous snowman character is Frosty, the titular snowman in the popular children's song "Frosty the Snowman" (later adapted into film and television specials), who was magically brought to life by the old silk hat used on his head. In addition to numerous related music and other media for Frosty, snow-men also feature as:
- Bouli, a French animated series about a snowman's adventures in a magical place.
- Der Schneemann, a 1943 animated short film created in Germany.
- Jack Frost, a 1996 horror movie in which a serial killer is transformed into a snowman.
- Jack Frost, a 1998 movie with Michael Keaton in which he wakes up as a snowman after a car accident.
- The Snowman, British picture book (1978) by Raymond Briggs and animation (1982) directed by Dianne Jackson about a boy who builds a snowman that comes alive and takes him to the North Pole.
- Calvin and Hobbes, an American cartoon by Bill Watterson, contains many instances of Calvin building snowmen, many of which are deformed or otherwise abnormal, often used to poke fun at the art world.
- Hans Christian Andersen wrote a winter fairy story, The Snowman.
- The 2013 film Frozen features a living snowman named Olaf who longs to see summer.
- The TimeSplitters games feature a flying snowman as a playable character.
World's largest snowman
The record for the world's largest snowman was set in 2008 in Bethel, Maine. The snow-woman stood 122 feet 1 inch (37.21 m) in height, and was named in honor of Olympia Snowe, the senior Republican U.S. Senator representing Maine.
The previous record was also a snowman built in Bethel, Maine, in February 1999. The snowman was named "Angus, King of the Mountain" in honor of the then current governor of Maine, Angus King. It was 113 feet 7 inches (34.62 m) tall and weighed over 9,000,000 pounds (4,080,000 kg).
- Eckstein, Bob (2008-12-02). "My Search for The First Snowman". The History of the Snowman. Open Salon. Retrieved 2010-01-11.
- Calvin and Hobbes Snow Art Gallery
- 2008 World’s Tallest SnowWoman
- "Angus, King of the Mountain — World's Largest Snowman". Sunday River On-Line. February 19, 1999. Archived from the original on 2007-10-12.
- Bob Eckstein, The History of the Snowman: From the Ice Age to the Flea Market (2007)
- Scottie Davis, Snow Day, A Photographic Journal of the Best Snowmen (2004)
- Sandy Kinnee, Lost Origins of the Snowman: Bloodless Sacrifice (2012)
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