Hello friends! Lizzy here. I’d write more often, but my human is a blog hog (and they call me a hog). However, I couldn’t help but notice that today’s Groundhog Day, and I couldn’t let that one go…
Because it used to be all about hedgehogs. That’s right, before groundhogs saw their shadows, hedgehogs have been doing it for centuries. How, you might ask, did the switch happen? When were hedgehogs thrust aside for the bigger (far less adorable) groundhogs? Because of America and about 1887.
A Quick History
Before groundhogs and hedgehogs was Candlemas. This was an ancient Christian tradition in which candles were blessed and then given to the people in midwinter. A sunny Candlemas meant a longer winter (though that seems counterintuitive), and a cloudy Candlemas meant an early spring.
Along came the Germans who decided that in order to determine if a day was sunny or not, a hedgehog had to see its shadow. A shadow scared the hedgehog (which I can say—as a hedgehog—actually happens; we are very cautious, timid animals) back into its burrow and meant a longer winter.
German Settlers in America
However, when the Germans made their way to America, they found that there weren’t hedgehogs living in the wild who could predict the weather for them. This is because we are native to parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, but not North America or South America. Therefore, they went with another burrowing creature: the groundhog.
I’d like to take a moment to say that hedgehogs are related to shrews and moles; groundhogs are rodents. We are not related. Plus, we have quills and are adorable. Groundhogs aren’t nearly as cute (sorry Punxsutawney Phil).
The First Groundhogs Day
February 2, 1887 was the first official Groundhogs Day at Gobbler’s Knob in Pennsylvania. Thanks to Candlemas and ancient Christian traditions, the beliefs of German immigrants, and the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club (whatever that is), Groundhogs Day has become quite the event, drawing in tens of thousands of people.
Now you know. It started with hedgehogs. The groundhogs have only been right 40 percent of the time in the last 100+ years. I could probably do better. Just sayin’. But we really don’t like attention, so carry on Punxsutawney Phil.
P.S. Read more at Groundhog.org (I’m mentioned in paragraphs 5 and 6). Plus, it is national hedgehog day. For good reason it turns out.