This week the Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition is taking place.

The winners at the event in Rockford will represent Illinois at the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition next year.

Weather permitting, you can expect lots of complex and amazing snow sculptures well beyond the classic snowman design.

Though that got me thinking, where did that classic snowman design come from?

The website Obscure Histories took a closer look.

Humans have likely made figures out of snow and ice for as long as we’ve lived in snowy places.

We have evidence of snow figures dating back at least to 8th Century China.

And there are even accounts suggesting that none other than Michelangelo made a snow sculpture as a youngster, back in January 1494.

In most cases, people have made snow figures for fun, like we do today.

But at other times, these snow figures have been used as kinds of effigies.

Angry people would make a snow version of someone they didn’t like, maybe a public official or an authority figure, and they’d wreck the snow version to get out some of their aggression.

Switzerland has had a long-running tradition of exploding a giant snowman to try to get rid of winter.

While building snow figures goes back a long way, the name “snowman” is pretty new.

It’s been traced back to 1827.

Before then, the figures were known as snow puppets or snow dolls.

And the iconic snowman shape became the standard thanks to mass media advertising in the 19th and 20th centuries.

So every time we add a carrot nose or a scarf to a pile of snowballs, we’re both taking part in an age-old global tradition… and we’re remembering a character from really old commercials.

If you’re looking to liven up your Black History Month, why not head to Baltimore, Maryland?

The city is home to the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum.

It features some 150 wax representations of famous African-Americans.

The museum definitely includes Marylanders, from explorer Matthew Henson to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to the woman known as “Moses,” Harriet Tubman.

Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition

The Snowman: A brief history of a winter entertainment (Obscure Histories)

Baltimore’s National Great Blacks in Wax Museum teaches visitors that knowledge is power (Roadtrippers)

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Photo by henry… via Flickr/Creative Commons

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