Well, for a little Jewish girl, I suppose a snowman is a safe, secular image of winter when there abounds many Christian symbols all around us: Christmas trees, holly, angels, Santa, reindeer, and mangers. Snowmen are safe. They are always cheerful. They're happy.
Of course, what's a kid in southern California (who never even saw snow on the ground until we ventured to the mountains when I was about ten) doing with a snowman?
I think we must have gotten it from a dime store, when things really did cost a dime. And snowmen are happy when my childhood wasn't so much. It must have coincided with my love of the Frosty the Snowman story. Which came first, I wonder, the inflatable fellow, or my hearing the song or reading the Little Golden Book? Doesn't much matter. I was left with a lifelong love of the chilly fellows and I've been collecting them ever since.
And just to keep things medieval here, here is a picture of the earliest known depiction of a snowman in a Book of Hours, ca 1380. Presumably, my character Crispin Guest could have made a snowman when he was a lad.
|Above, in that picture from the wall of a castle in Italy, Castillo del Buonconsiglio, seems to be the first representation of a snowball fight.|
According to The History of the Snowman by Bob Eckstein, snowmen have come to mean different things throughout history. Perhaps they were blobby at first, but somewhere around the Renaissance, they were scuplted with a lot more skill and were more representational of individuals. Now, of course, they are just as much part of crass commercialism as anything else.
There is Frosty, though. I'm certainly not talking about that horrible 1969 Rankin Bass amateurish cartoon catastrophe. No, please excise that from your memory banks. It is an affront to the ice person of Frosty and all who love him. No, there is the Gene Autry hit song from 1950 that spawned the wonderful Little Golden Book with the politically incorrect illustrations (and only so because there are only white kids in the story) by Corinne Malvern.
I mean look at that icy punim. That corncob pipe, that button nose, those two eyes made out of coal. Who couldn't love that?
Here's a cake I made a few years ago. It's freakin' adorable!
Given where I live, I never even made a snowman until late childhood. It's hard work. That's a lot of snow to move, after all. I still live in a snow free southern California, and the Snowman that sits on my porch this time of year is, alas, made of plastic. Such is life. But if you love the Snowman like I do, you gotta have them around in one form or another. They make me smile and there aren't too many things that can easily make me do that.
If you'd like to know more about Snowmen, do get the Eckstein book. I'm thinking it's the definitive book on snowmen, because...er...how many people really want to write about them?