Some Spiky Facts About National Hedgehog Day! (The Original Groundhog Day)

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National Hedgehog Day is celebrated on February 2nd of every year, the same day as Groundhog Day in the US and Canada. But when did this prickly holiday begin, and how is it celebrated? 

Read on to learn about the festivities over this tiny, floofy, spiky mammal!

What is National Hedgehog Day?

As the story goes, National Hedgehog Day dates back to the ancient Romans, even if they might not have had a name for it yet. 

People then believed that if a hedgehog came out of hibernation on February 2 to a sunny day–causing him to see his shadow–he would return to his burrow, and winter would continue for another six weeks.

However, spring would arrive soon if the day was cloudy and the hedgehog did not see his shadow.

A hedgehog in the middle of clover plants.

This belief persisted throughout the centuries in many different places and under other names, but always with the same idea. Here are a few other examples:

  • Christians celebrate “Candlemas Day” on February 2. They believe winter would continue if Candlemas Day were sunny. However, if Candlemas Day was cloudy, spring was near.
  • Instead of relying on hedgehogs to predict the season, Germans had a tradition of watching badgers on their annual “Badger Day” every February 2nd. 
  • When European immigrants moved to America, they brought along the tradition to the New World, but–alas!–hedgehogs are not native to America! Badgers were not as commonly found there as in Germany, either! 

This caused them to transfer the belief to another animal prevalent in the US, the groundhog. And thus, Groundhog Day was born.

Therefore, National Hedgehog Day, Groundhog Day, Badger Day, and Candlemas Day are all ultimately about the same thing: the hopeful anticipation of spring and the end of the cold winter months.

The Science Behind The Holiday

Is there any scientific reason behind relying on badgers, hedgehogs, and groundhogs to predict the weather?

Scientists have noted that while animals obviously can’t predict the weather, hibernating males traditionally emerge sometime in February to gauge if they can start waking up their female counterparts to mate.

This followed the logic that the more hibernating animals appeared at this time, such as hedgehogs and groundhogs, the higher the chance winter was coming to an end. In other parts of the US, people look out for the first robin of spring as their sign.

Animals are also noted to be very sensitive to weather changes. Therefore, if there is anything new in the wind (or ground), scientists are confident that animals such as hedgehogs and groundhogs will sense it before people can!

Closeup of a hedgehog with flowers.

Milestones For National Hedgehog Day

1450: The first recorded use of the word “hedgehog.” The little spiky animals were also known as urchins and hedgepigs.

February 2, 1887: Hedgehog Day and Groundhog Day became “official” national holidays after being “unofficially” celebrated the year prior by the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

February 2, 1994: Sonic the Hedgehog 3 game was released precisely on hedgehog day, popularizing this national holiday.

Who Predicts The Weather Better – Groundhogs or Hedgehogs?

Though Groundhog Day is the more popular holiday, the “official” Groundhog Day groundhog Punxsutawney Phil is known for his batting average of only 39%.

In the years past, however, Oregon Zoo has been pushing back, proudly showing off their hedgehogs FuFu and Velda. According to the zoo, their spiky animals can predict the change of seasons more accurately, getting it right 50% of the time!

“FuFu is bringing the holiday back to its origins,” Tanya Paul of the zoo proudly exclaims.

Where is National Hedgehog Day Celebrated?

National Hedgehog Day is primarily celebrated in the North American continent, particularly in the United States and Canada, though it is often overshadowed by the more popular Groundhog Day.

Certain areas in Europe observe National Hedgehog Day as well.

Other Hedgehog Day Celebrations

The hedgehog is a well-loved little creature! Other celebrations of the animal include:

  • The Day of the Hedgehog – Happens every November 21st and is celebrated by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.
  • International Hedgehog Day – Every November 10th.
  • Hedgehog Awareness Week – May 2nd to 8th of every year.

How Can I Celebrate National Hedgehog Day?

Even though hedgehogs are not native to the US and are not legal to have as pets across the country, there are still ways to enjoy the holiday. 

Those in North America can celebrate by learning about hedgehogs, enjoying a Sonic the Hedgehog movie or show, or even playing a Sonic the Hedgehog game, for example! You may also want to enjoy the Beatrix Potter book, The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, which features a hedgehog as its main character!

Watermelon, grapes, blueberries, and other fruit turned into a hedgehog with the use of tooth picks.

Celebrate National Hedgehog Day with hedgehog-themed food!

However, for those living in the UK and other areas with wild hedgehogs, you can celebrate the day further by making your yard more hedgehog-friendly. Here are a few suggestions for the holiday and the rest of the year:

  1. Create shelter for hedgehogs by building log piles or planting shrubs or other woody plants. You can also make them an actual little hedgehog house.
  2. Create a “hedgehog highway.” Hedgehogs will appreciate holes at the bottom of your fence so they can easily enter your yard as they forage for food!
  3. Have a variety of plants and flowers in your garden. This can provide food for hedgehogs and other insects, which hedgehogs enjoy as part of their diet.
  4. Create a compost heap. Aside from producing fertilizer for your other plants, compost heaps are full of earthworms, a hedgehog favorite!
  5. Leave out bowls of water for visiting hedgehogs.
  6. Avoid using harmful pesticides. Harmful chemicals are poisonous for little hedgehogs.
  7. Always check for hedgehogs before mowing your lawn. You don’t want to run them over accidentally!
A hole in a fence with an ornated green sign saying "hedgehog crossing", menat for hedgehogs to be able to easily get through the fence and into a garden.

Can I Own A Pet Hedgehog In The US?

Each state has its laws regarding owning a pet hedgehog.

In a nutshell, owning a hedgehog in California, Georgia, Hawaii, New York (NYC area), and Pennsylvania is illegal. Meanwhile, aspiring hedgehog owners in Idaho and New Jersey are required to obtain a permit first.

Otherwise, owning a hedgehog in all other US states is legal.

Fun Facts About Hedgehogs

  • Hedgehogs have a lifespan of 4-7 years but can live longer in captivity.
  • Very technically speaking, hedgehogs have “spines,” not “quills” (like porcupines). These spines are thick, hardened, and sharpened hair! They are made of keratin, the same protein in human fingernails and hair.
  • Hedgehogs have tiny tails! They are just very tricky to spot under their spikes.
  • Hedgehogs have very poor eyesight. They rely primarily on their smell and hearing to get around.
  • Scientists consider hedgehogs an “indicator species.” This means that the population size and behavior of hedgehogs are an excellent way to gauge the health of that environment.
Hedgehog emerging from a hedgehog house on a green lawn.

What Else Happens On February 2nd Each Year?

Aside from Hedgehog day, Groundhog day, Badger day, and Candlemas day, the following events also happen on February 2nd every year:

  • Marmot Day
  • National Crepe Day
  • World Wetlands Day
  • National Tater Tot Day
  • World Play Your Ukulele Day
  • Lung Leavin Day
  • National Sled Dog Day

Author: Bernice Go

Bernice Go is a violinist and orchestra manager by profession but a writer by hobby. She enjoys writing about various topics, from music to animals to self-development. When she isn’t playing the violin or writing, she loves reading, traveling, playing video games, and savoring a good cup of coffee.

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