A Month of Christmas: Snow Angels

United States - Scott #4944 (2014)
United States – Scott #4944 (2014)

When I was a kid, I would more often lob a snowball (occasionally hardened in the freezer portion of our refrigerator) from behind some sort of shelter (snow forts, anyone?) that I was to create anything like a snowman. My father would occasionally make one of those while my sister and mother would be swinging their arms and legs in a snow bank creating angel impressions. This all occurred when we were quite young living in West Texas or central Tennessee and only during those years when we received sufficient snowfall for such winter fun. By the time we had moved to northeastern Kansas, we were of an age that, if we were to venture outside into the snow it would be to shovel the driveway (with actual shovels; I don’t think Dad invested in a snowblower until I’d left for college, about the time he bought a riding lawnmower once his push-mower labor was attending classes in Manhattan). Later, I only went outside to dig out my car from under mounds of snow so that I could drive to work or some other responsibility).

Now, I long for those days — even of the driving in the snow and ice — as I dearly miss the snow. Because once I returned to the safety of my home, I could sit for hours gazing through the windows at the beauty of the world covered in white (while sipping hot cocoa and, more often then not, enjoying the warmth of a fire in the hearth). At this late stage of my life, I would love to return to Kansas some blustery winter where I could create my first-ever snow angel. We certainly don’t have the opportunity here in southern Thailand!

Making a snow angel. Photo taken on February 4, 2007.
Making a snow angel. Photo taken on February 4, 2007.
Snow angel photographed on February 29, 2016.
Snow angel photographed on February 29, 2016.

A snow angel is a design, made in fresh snow, by lying on one’s back and moving one’s arms up and down, and one’s legs from side to side, to form the shape of an angel. The first step in making one is to find an undisturbed plane of fresh snow. The next step is to lie with arms and legs outstretched, on the snow. The limbs are then swept back and forth, creating a trough through the snow. When it is finished, the snow angel should have the appearance of a stylized angel, the movement of the arms having formed wings, and that of the legs having formed a gown.

On March 28, 2007, Guinness World Records confirmed that North Dakota holds the world record for the most snow angels made simultaneously in one place. The event occurred on February 17, 2007, when 8,962 snow angels were created by people on the State Capitol grounds in Bismarck. Pauline Jaeger, who turned 99 years old, was one of the participants and made her first-ever snow angel.   Previously, the record was held by Michigan Technological University with 3,784 students, locals, and alumni making snow angels on the school football field.

Some birds (pheasants, for example) leave on the snow a figure similar to a snow angel. Also Weddell seals can leave an outline of themselves, similar to a snow angel, melted into the ice; also these seals can thumb their nose at the cold, leaving images called seal shadows.

On October 23, 2014, in New York, New York, the United States Postal Service stamps in four designs under the title of Winter Fun. The Forever stamps were self-adhesive and valued at 49 cents on the date of issue. The stamps celebrate some of the season’s most enjoyable activities: ice-skating, making snow angels, building snowmen, and bird-watching. Art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamps using existing illustrations.

Winter Fun – 20-stamp booklet liner
United States - Scott #4937-4940 (2014) block of four on the booklet liner seen above
United States – Scott #4937-4940 (2014) block of four on the booklet liner pictured above
United States - Scott #4940 (2014) first day cover featuring a cachet of Winnie the Pooh creating a snow angel
United States – Scott #4940 (2014) first day cover featuring a cachet of Winnie the Pooh creating a snow angel

Painting with acrylic on plywood, artist Janet Atkinson created the design of the two ice skaters using a dry brush technique to give the illustration a textured, folk art feel. She explained that she used a soft, muted palette for her stylized design in an effort to “create an uplifting winter image and evoke harmony and joy.” Artist Jing Jing Tsong drew and then digitally composed the art for the snowman and snow angel stamps. With these designs, Tsong said she hoped to capture “the magic of new snowfall and the joy of being in a moment that will melt away all too soon.” Using bold colors and simplified details, she depicted a person joyfully creating a snow angel and another affixing a carrot nose to a well-crafted snowman. In a simple scene prominently featuring a bright red northern cardinal, artist Christine Roy highlighted the contrast between the bird’s plumage and the snowy background. Beginning with sketches and then moving to digital manipulation, she added her distinctive touch of texture to the design. “Cardinals have always seemed like a wonderful symbol of carrying on during winter,” explained Roy.

Four hundred million copies of the stamps (100,000,000 of each design) were printed by CCL Label, Inc., in Clinton, South Carolina, using the photogravure process and issued in self-adhesive double-sided booklet panes of 20 containing five each of the four designs. These stamps measure 0.91 x 1.19 inches (23.11 x 30.23 mm). These had serpentine die-cut perforations of 10¾ x 11 on two or three sides (Scott #4937-4940). Additionally, Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd. printed 36 million (9,000,000 copies of each design) of the Winter Fun stamps using offset lithography (Scott #4941-4944). These were issued in ATM booklets of 18 stamps with the stamps a slightly smaller size of 22.1 x 24.9 millimeters. They had serpentine die-cut perforations measuring 11¼ x 11 on two, three or four sides.

A snow angel was also featured on one of the holiday stamps issued by the United States on October 4, 2017 (Scott #5245). Somewhat similar in design, this stamp portrays Peter in Ezra Jack Keats’ book The Snowy Day making a snow angel in fresh, untouched snow. 

Flag of the United States, 1959-date

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