The Suitcase Lady


March 15, 2016, 9:06 pm

The time has come to burn the snowman. I must admit that this past winter was a mild one, and cabin fever was not raging. Nevertheless, the iceberg is still at the end of our driveway, the ground is frozen solid and enough is enough.

The tradition of burning the snowman to bid winter adieu goes back many years. Citizens of Zurich, Switzerland, welcome spring at a festival called Sechselauten. A giant,  straw snowman effigy is filled with explosives and set ablaze. If the snowman’s head explodes within 12 minutes, it is seen as an omen that the summer will be warm and sunny. Personally, I prefer this weather prediction to waking up a poor, furry mammal who is deep into hibernation on February second.

The Rose Sunday Festival in Weinheim-an-der-Bergstrasse, Germany, also burns a straw snowman to welcome spring. A parade through town culminates in a central location where the town’s mayor tells the children that if they promise to obey their parents and work hard, he will proclaim that the snowman be burned. Naturally, the kids yell their approval.

America’s snowman burning tradition goes back to 1971 and was started by the Unicorn Hunter’s Club at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. A large, paper snowman is burned on the first day of spring. Poems are written and read by students of all ages.

In 1992 the event was cancelled because the school’s Environmental Awareness Club said that too many toxins went into the air as the snowman burned. A huge outcry followed and the burning returned the next year. The University wisely pointed out that staff and students put more pollution in the air every day when they drove to school.

The folks in Port Clinton, Ohio, are the newest in the snowman burning business. A group of friends staged the event in 2015 to drum up business in their area. The burning of “Norman” was held at The Lagoon Saloon, and the organizers hoped that 500 people would show up. 3,000, many on snowmobiles, came.  This year “Charlie” went up in flames to the benefit of the local United Way.

I was telling my husband about these burning snowmen the other day over breakfast. “What I would do”, he said, “is make three big snowballs and put a box of firecrackers in each one. A fuse would hang out of each and the balls piled up. Blam! Exploding snow people.”

Happy Spring, however you celebrate the event.

2 Comments for this entry