The Strange Story of Snowglobes in Hot Countries

The story behind Snowglobes in Hot Countries

Hey Owlets,

“Take only memories, leave only footprints”. If you’ve been anywhere on the internet before then you’ve probably read that hundreds of times, and you’ve probably ignored it just as many times. You only need to look at the main shopping street in any touristy area to realise that selling souvenirs is a HUGE business. You can get souvenirs of just about everything - if you go to Spain you’ll most likely come home with a fan or some castanets, visit Paris and you’ll probably have a mini Eiffel Tower on your keys for the next few months, or Big Ben or the London Eye, or maybe even a bulldog if your holiday of choice was London. I’ll admit, I do like to buy a fridge magnet from every country I visit, but my main souvenir of choice is something much more unusual - snow globes. Given that it’s both a very specific item and, for the most part, I only visit hot countries you’d think they would be nearly impossible to find, but they’re surprisingly common, and it’s all down to a story I heard by chance in Italy a few years ago.

Walking through the streets of Rome in 2017, I noticed that every single stall-holder had rows of snowglobes and I found it really strange. It was only the second country I’d visited during my first ever cruise so I guess I was a little naive and in all honesty I was too in awe of being in a different country to take very much in, so even though I now know that they were in Spain too, I only noticed the snow globes in Rome because there were too many of them not to notice. 

The story behind Snowglobes in Hot Countries

The things that Spain and Italy have in common are that they’re both hot and both very Christian countries - believe it or not this story is going somewhere! Walking through the streets of Rome on our official cruise ship tour (yes, back in the days when I wasn’t brave enough to explore alone!), the tour guide saw me looking and asked if everything was ok. I asked her why there were so many snow globes for sale and she laughed, then pointed to the Basilica of St Mary Major as if it was obvious, but this was my first time travelling and I had no idea. 

The story goes that a wealthy Roman couple were wondering what to do with their property as they had no children to leave it to. Like most Romans they were Catholic, and that night they both had a dream that the Virgin Mary wanted a church to be built in her honour. In the dream they were told that they would know where to build the church because the chosen site would be covered in snow - of course it almost never snows in Rome where it’s warm all year round. The story says that the husband spoke to Pope Liberius the next day, and was surprised to learn that the Pope had also dreamt of Mary, who again told him that she wanted a church to be built in her honour and that snow would fall on the chosen location. 

The next day, on the morning of 5th August (summer in the Northern Hemisphere) they woke to the news of Esquiline Hill being covered in snow, so they rushed to outline the land before the snow melted. A church was built on this exact site, and now every year on 5th August the church releases white petals from the basilica’s dome to celebrate the anniversary of the legend.

The story behind Snowglobes in Hot Countries

Whether you are religious or not, it’s one of those stories that can’t help but make you think. I loved the story, and to be honest I’m a bit of a sucker for snow globes anyway, so I bought one to remember my trip to the basilica. After hearing the story in Rome it was one of those things where you only notice how common something is once you see it for the first time. Our next stop on the trip was back to Spain - another Christian country - and sure enough, I found a snow globe. 

Even though the origins of snow globes came from celebrating a Roman Catholic legend, they have since become popular across the world and are something that you can find in pretty much every country. Even though I bought my first one in Rome after hearing the story, I now buy a snow globe from every country I visit. I even found one in Morocco, although this sadly didn’t survive the journey home, and sits broken on my desk hoping that I would work out how to fix it. 

To this day when I’m stuck at home writing, I still look across the room to my snow globes and smile. I have never forgotten the story because it’s so unique, but on top of that I just love looking at each one and remembering the weird and wonderful things I got up to during that trip.

What do you souvenir do you always buy when you travel? I would love to hear, especially if it’s something really unique!

Love and Feathers, 
 The Owlet 💜 
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