How Did the Snowman Connect to Christmas?

outdoor snowmen

Both the “Christmas” tree and sometimes life size snowmen originated in pagan cultures.  Snowman documentation dates as far back as the Middle Ages.  Before that, we can only assume that in the dark times of winter, humans were creating art with anything available, including snow.  According to Bob Eckstein, author of The History of the Snowman, the snowman’s earliest known representation is in the 1380 Book of Hours in the Koninkijke Bibliotheek in The Hague, Netherlands.

Connection to Christmas is coming.

History of Snowmen
Snowman with charred backside in Book of Hours

In 1845, Mary Dillwyn took the first photograph of a snowman, shortly after Francis Ronalds invented the first successful device for continuous recording, otherwise known as a camera.  Not that Frosty is aware that he’s the subject of one of the first photographs ever taken.  For decades after that, variations of snowmen materialized in books, magazines, songs and films.

Connection to Christmas is coming.

the first snowman
Mary Dillwyn/National Museum of Wales

 

Snowman Suffers Unrequited Love

Hans Christian Andersen wrote a fairy tale about an outdoor snowman,  who wishes he could be indoors as he’s fallen in love with a stove.  It isn’t difficult to see the irony in that love story, which begins with a snowman standing in the garden of a manor house watching the sun set and the moon rise. His sole companion is a watchdog who lives in a doghouse nearby.

life size snowmen
A snowman receives romantic advice from dog in Hans Christian Andersen’s “Stories for the Household” (1880s) – Internet Archive Book Images

The dog reminisces about happier days when he slept under the stove inside the house. The snowman can see the stove through a window and believes it is female.  He pines for her and longs to be in the room with the stove, but the dog warns him he would melt.  There’s much more to the story if you care to read it.  

Connection to Christmas is coming.

life size snowman
North Wind Picture Archives

Don’t Count on Snowmen to Protect You

Snowmen, unbeknownst to them, played a part in one of the bloodiest events in early American history; the Schenectady Massacre of 1690. At the time, Fort Schenectady was a remote Dutch settlement under constant threat of attack.  A blizzard descended on the fort, and the gates were frozen open.  The freezing soldiers left a pair of snowmen as substitute “guards” to protect the fort when they left for shelter.  They were not aware of a looming threat.  A contingent of French-Canadian soldiers and Native Americans attacked and, unfazed by the stoic but inefficient snowmen, killed 60 inhabitants. This was well before the modern day Frosty, who we all know can come to life.  Connection to Christmas is coming.

Snowwomen Rise Up

Residents of Bethel, Maine celebrated feminism on a much grander scale than did the Dutch in the snow representation of their queen.  Ignoring the traditional genderless snowman, they constructing Olympia, who stood 122 feet tall and much larger than the average outside snowman .  Olympia was considered the world’s largest snowperson, until Austria won the title in 2008.  Bethel’s amazing snowwoman had eyelashes made of skis, lips made of car tires, a 100-foot-long scarf, and a six-foot-long snowflake pendant. Imagine if she came to life!

Connection to Christmas is here.

snowman
Dutch Queen Wilhelmina and Princess Juliana as snowwomen in the Netherlands (1939) – Creation of the Snowman

Snowwomen Rise Up

Residents of Bethel, Maine celebrated feminism on a much grander scale than did the Dutch in the snow representation of their queen.  Ignoring the traditional genderless snowman, they constructing Olympia, who stood 122 feet tall and much larger than the average outside snowman .  Olympia was considered the world’s largest snowperson, until Austria won the title in 2008.  Bethel’s amazing snowwoman had eyelashes made of skis, lips made of car tires, a 100-foot-long scarf, and a six-foot-long snowflake pendant. Imagine if she came to life!  Connection to Christmas is here.

the worlds tallest snowman
The Worlds Tallest Snowman

It’s Here! Snowmen and Christmas

The recognizable version of a snowman, three balls of snow stacked upon each other, with stovepipe hat, a button nose and two eyes made out of coal, came to life in the Christmas Season during the Victorian era.  Prince Albert, not the kind in a can, incorporated some of Eastern Europe’s traditions into England’s.  Santa Claus and the snowman became omnipresent icons for Boxing Day and the holiday season.

Now, in the yards of homes all over the world, life size snowmen are included in Christmas decorations.  Snowmen are also found on Christmas cards and some people collect them to use as interior holiday decoration.  There are also notable snowmen like Olaf and the Abominable Snowman, but there’s one that was made famous in both song and film – Frosty the Snowman.

Christmas decoration snowman

The Christmas animated television special about Frosty the Snowman debuted in 1969. Narrated by Jimmy Durante, the film involves a magic hat that transforms Frosty the Snowman into a living being. Without ruining the whole plot, eventually Frosty and the town children wind up at the North Pole.  When Frosty eventually melts, Santa Claus explains that Frosty is made out of special Christmas snow. Frosty then comes back to life and everyone has a Merry Christmas.

The television special is based on the song, Frosty the Snowman, written in 1950 by Walter “Jack” Rollins and Steve Nelson. They wrote it for Gene Autry, after Autry had such a huge hit with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer the previous year.  However, unlike Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman is not necessarily a Christmas song. Nothing about Christmas is mentioned in the song’s lyrics at all. It’s just a generic wintertime song.

It was when Frosty producers decided to make the song into a Christmas special that Christmas came into the story, by changing the final line of the song.  The original song ends with, “But he waved goodbye, saying, don’t you cry. I’ll be back again someday,” as evidenced here.  On the television special, the last line is, “But he waved goodbye, saying, don’t you cry. I’ll be back on Christmas day.”  Adding a bit more marketing magic to Christmas.

A Brief History of Christmas Carols

Santa Claus with Jingle Bells carol sheet music

There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should like to have given him something.

— Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol


Of all the Christian holidays, Christmas must be the most sociable. Since at least Victorian times (and certainly before) it has been a season for family and friends to spend time together and engage in joyful group activities. And one of the most joyful of those activities is the making of music and the singing of holiday songs by outdoor Christmas carolers.

Imagine Christmastime without music or carols. It just wouldn’t be the same. And yet, ironically, in the very earliest years of Christianity there was no Christmastime to speak of, much less music to celebrate it. Easter—commemorating the miraculous resurrection of the crucified Jesus—was the main holiday of devout Christians. The birth of Jesus, by comparison, seemed an unimportant affair and simply was not celebrated.

In the fourth century, however, church officials decided to proclaim the birth of Jesus as a holiday. The history behind that proclamation illustrates the genius of Roman Catholicism for incorporating secular, pagan traditions into its religious rituals. One of those is the tradition of caroling.

Carol sheet music, The First Noël
The First Nowell from an 1879 book by Henry Ramsden Bramley
(Source)

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Before He Was Santa, Was He Sinterklaas?

santa sleigh

Dutch Influences in the Story of Santa

It is believed that Santa is a derivative of the Dutch name for Saint Nicholas, which is Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas was described as a serious-looking older man with a long white beard, who wears a red cape, rides a white horse and carries a large red book filled with names of children who have been naughty or nice. Sinterklaas was said to travel with an apprentice called Piet.

Before the Book of Naughty and Nice

Santa’s helpers either listened at the chimney or on rooftops. Then Santa’s helper would report back to Santa the goings on in the homes. With this information Santa would decide who was worthy of a reward. In some stories, it was his helper Piet, in other stories it was two ravens named Huginn and Muninn, who listened on Santa’s behalf. When the focus shifted to children is unknown, but it is possible that when the fable of Santa was Christianized, it may have been in that time. Eventually, instead of Santa’s helpers listening for Santa, it was inferred that Santa, simply knew if a child was naughty or nice and Santa kept track of it in his large red book. Continue reading “Before He Was Santa, Was He Sinterklaas?”

Art of the Nativity

Duomo of Florence Italy at night

Guest Blog by Frank Weaver


The long, dark, cold nights of December are immeasurably warmed and brightened by the Christmas decorations that mark the holiday season: colored lights, tree ornaments, elaborate wreaths—and not least of all, the indoor and outdoor Nativity scenes that homeowners, churches, and municipalities display to remind us of the meaning of that season. But what inspired this tradition?

On a recent trip to Italy I wanted, of course, to immerse myself in the natural, cultural, artistic, and day-to-day charms of that country, especially in the vicinity of Florence. But I also made a particular point of seeking out the origins of the Nativity Scene tradition within the unrivaled collections of art found throughout that country.

The Nativity in Florence and Milan

I did not have to search hard.

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2020 Holiday Season Trends


It’s hard enough to keep track of your own world during the holidays without trying to figure out what’s new and trendy. But Christmas Night Inc. has done it for you! We have our finger on the pulse of the holidays every year, and our guide to the holiday season trends of 2018 will help you have a more rewarding, less stressful December. While you can’t go wrong with tradition, our tips and advice below can put you at the forefront of the season.

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Evolution of the Beloved Nutcracker

Giant Nutcracker

The nutcracker sits under the holiday tree, a guardian of childhood stories. Feed him walnuts and he will crack open a tale….”
Vera Nazarian

Primitive nutcrackers were nothing like the nutcrackers that we know of today. To understand the significance of the nutcracker, we need to go back in time to a point when malevolent spirits held a place in everyday life. In these early times, typically referred to medieval times, nutcrackers were used to ward off spirits, bring luck and crack nuts.

The Nutcracker as an Everyday Tool
Typically, nutcrackers were of simpler but creative design. During medieval times, the nutcracker was an everyday tool. And nuts were a staple in everyday life. Medieval nutcrackers were whittled from wood and were skillfully designed by the whittler.

Some nutcrackers appeared with human or elfish heads, animals and other objects. But typically, the nutcracker had two handles which clasped together, and at the end was a cracking mechanism. The nutcracker was more geared toward function but also had ornate design. Nutcrackers weren’t considered decoration in these times, but simply a tool. Once, harder metals were introduced, nutcrackers were also ornately fashioned from metal, but were not as affordable to the lower classes.

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Historical Origins of Outdoor Nativity Scenes

Outdoor Nativity scene

 

“All cultures…have grown out of myths. They are founded on myths. What these myths have given has been inspiration for aspiration.”
— Joseph Campbell, Mythology and the Individual (1997)


From church iconography to Easter baskets, from Yule logs to small indoor crèches and huge outdoor Nativity sets, the backstories behind the outward manifestations of Christian belief, in all their rich variety, remain a source of endless historical interest, and not a little speculation. Continue reading “Historical Origins of Outdoor Nativity Scenes”

Announcing Dog-Statues.com by Christmas Night Inc.

Christmas Night is proud to introduce our new website, www.dog-statues.com. Just as Christmas Night is your ultimate source for outdoor Christmas decorations , dog-statues.com will try to be your ultimate source for all kinds of statues of your family pet, working companion or animal best friend.

Our dog statues represent the very best versions of dog figures made of resin, fine stone , ceramic, structured plush, metal and plush. These dog figures are skillfully, carved, constructed or assembled and colored in factories and workshops in the US, Italy and the Philippines.

Some of our dog statues are made to order and shipped in 4 to 6 weeks from our US factories. Many statues are carried in stock in our and our suppliers warehouse for immediate shipment by Fed EX Ground or LTL truck.

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Different Ways to Decorate Buildings

While homes seem to lend themselves naturally to Christmas decorations, decking out a building can seem like an insurmountable challenge. It’s not. The key to effectively decorating buildings is to ensure you match the size and scope of the building with the décor. Check out some ideas on different ways to decorate buildings we put together here at Christmas Night Inc.

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