Hedgehogs are spiny mammals that have become widely domesticated across the world. Domesticated hedgehogs are mostly docile and friendly creatures, but keep your distance when both wild and tame hedgehogs get frightened or angry. These little guys are covered in quills or spines which are hollow hairs filled with keratin, causing them to be stiff and pointy. As a defense mechanism, hedgehogs will roll into a ball, allowing their quills to stick straight out and harm anyone or anything that tries to touch them.
The origin of Hedgehog Day has two stories behind it. The first dates back thousands of years to ancient Roman times. Just as we celebrate Groundhog Day by waiting to see if the famed groundhog Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow and thus predicts the continuation of winter for six more weeks, the Romans had a similar tradition involving one of their native critters, the hedgehog. Hedgehogs are nocturnal creatures, so their tradition varied slightly. If the hedgehog sees his shadow it means there is a clear moon and six more weeks of winter, so he returns to his burrow. Punxsutawney Phil, on the other hand, is observed looking for his shadow during the day. The tradition spread to Germany, and when German immigrants came to America and found no indigenous hedgehogs, they replaced it with the groundhog.
Another story behind the creation and popularization of Hedgehog Day came about due to one of the most famous hedgehogs in the world – a speedy blue video game character called Sonic. On February 2, 1994, Sega released Sonic the Hedgehog 3 in the United States, and re-popularized the lesser-known Hedgehog Day.
Celebrate today by learning more about hedgehogs, playing your favorite Sonic the Hedgehog game, or maybe even adopting an adorable new hedgehog friend from your local pet store!
Happy Hedgehog Day!