The Snowball

Snowball Fight and Snowman, Hans Dahl, 1937

World Snow Day

Jan 20

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"I made myself a snowball
As perfect as could be.
I thought I'd keep it as a pet
And let it sleep with me.
I made it some pajamas
And a pillow for its head.
Then last night it ran away,
But first it wet the bed."

Snowball, Shel Silverstein (1930-1999)

If conditions are just right, the windy and snowy weather might roll snowballs for a snowball fight! A rare natural phenomenon called "snow rollers," "snow bales," "wind snowballs," or "snow donuts," are a cold weather equivalent of tumbleweeds. They form when wind pushes snow across the ground, gathering it into a hollow cylinder. Although some formations appear more squashed than others, bigger snow rollers can be a few inches wide and travel a couple feet, leaving trails behind in their wakes! Only very specific conditions can support snow rollers, since the phenomenon needs the right mixture of moisture, snow, wind, and temperature. There must be a light dusting of snow on top of an icy layer on the ground, often on a hill or other expanse with no protruding vegetation. The dusting needs to be just wet enough so that it can adhere to itself but not stick to the ground. The wind must be around 30 miles per hour to coax the snow into its cylindrical shape, and the temperature must be three to five degrees above freezing! In 2014 in the U.S., people reported spotting snow rollers in the Midwest. And in January of 2018, snow rollers were spotted in Scotland! ❄️ ☃️ 🌨️

The Snowball

Historically, snowball fights are irrestible!  Studies of snowball fights point to Leuven, Belgium as the actual snowball capital of the world.


Yukigassen is a snowball fighting-competition originating in Japan. There are annual Yukigassen tournaments in Japan, Finland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, the United States and Canada.


The world's snowball fight record was broken on January 31, 2016 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Canada, where more than 20,000 participants came to Victoria park to attempt the Guinness World Record.  Underestimating the number of participants the event ran out of their 8200 wristbands hours before the competition took place. In total 7,681 participants was the official Guinness record and was achieved by the City of Saskatoon thanks to Yukigassen Team Canada.


During the American Civil War, on January 29, 1863, there was even a military snow exchange occurred in the Rappahannock Valley in Northern Virginia. What began as a few hundred men from Texas plotting a friendly fight against their Arkansas camp mates soon escalated into a brawl that involved 9,000 soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia!


Snowball fighting has not always been encouraged and in fact, prohibited!   in 1472, the city council of Amsterdam prohibited snowball fights: "Neymant en moet met sneecluyten werpen nocht maecht noch wijf noch manspersoon." ("No one shall throw with snowballs, neither men nor (unmarried) women.")


For a "snowball" recipe (also called Mexican wedding cakes or Russian teacakes) click the painting of "Snowballing" by Cornelis Kimmel (1804-1877.

The Snowball
The Snowball

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