Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Photo by Jay Dickman, National Geographic Stock
Tradition holds that lots of folks will be watching to see whether or not Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow today.  But the history behind this American tradition has everything to do not only with groundhogs, but also hedgehogs...and Light!

February 2nd is recognized as Groundhog Day, but from ancient times Christians have observed this as a holy day celebrating the Virgin Mary's Presentation of Jesus in the Temple at Jerusalem, 40 days after His birth.  The Gospel account of this story tells us that an old man named Simeon held the Christ Child in his arms and said that He would be a "Light of revelation for the Gentiles" (Luke 2:32).  In some Western traditions, the day is known as "Candlemas", because candles are also blessed on this day, reminding us that Christ is Light of the World.

In the early days of Christianity in Europe, a folk custom arose that on Candlemas (which is mid-way through winter, between the December solstice and the March equinox), if a hedgehog came out of its burrow and saw his shadow, he would return because there would be six more weeks of winter.  Sound familiar?  Groundhogs are next...

During the 1800's, immigrants from Germany to America brought this custom with them as they settled in Pennsylvania.  Since there were no hedgehogs, groundhogs were substituted and "Groundhog Day" came into being.

According to the old English saying:
"If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again."

From Scotland:
"If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
There'll be two winters in the year."

From Germany:
"For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far will the snow swirl until May.
For as the snow blows on Candlemas Day,
So far will the sun shine before May."

And from America:
"If the sun shines on Groundhog Day;
Half the fuel and half the hay."

CHILDREN'S BOOKS AND A FILM ABOUT HEDGEHOGS... (since I don't have any favorites about Groundhogs)
Hedgehog in the Fog (Norstein Animation)
I am so excited to share this mesmerizing video,
The Hedgehog in the Fog by Russian animator Yuri Norshteyn, with you.  It is a beautiful short animated film from 1975, based on the story by well-known Russian fairytale writer, Sergey Kozlov.  There is also a picture book that has been adapted from the film, with sketches made by Francesca Yarbusova.
Hedgie's Surprise by Jan Brett 

Hedgie's Surprise 
The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle by Beatrix Potter
The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle

I am grateful to Fr. Stephen Freeman, whose post "Candlewax and Hedgehogs: Groundhog Day" brought this history to my attention.  You can read it here at his blog, GLORY TO GOD FOR ALL THINGS.  My two other sources were National Geographic.com and this "Candlemas" article from timeanddate.com.


  1. This is exactly what I was looking for....Thanks Wendy!!!

  2. Interesting...well we celebrate the meeting of the Lord in 2 more weeks. That video is SO cute!

    1. Thanks for the reminder, Martha - I always forget to reference the Old Calendar date alongside the new.
      The Hedgehog in the Fog video is so wonderful and unique. I was very happy to find it and share it!

  3. Mrs. Tiggy Winkle! Now I *know* I'm going to have a good day. :-)

    Another excellent post. I'm rushing out the door, but I'm just leaving that video window ready to go on my screen so I can take it in when I return. As always, many thanks to you for all the good work pulling everything together.

  4. Once upon a time I was in England. Our family was being adventurous, and on our way to Durham for the day. When all of a sudden, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. A hedgehog, under a hedge. Under a real hedge. That little hedgehog regarded me, gave me that Mrs Tiggy Winkle Look, then scurried away to her wash.
    Like in a fairy tale....

    1. Maybe it was the same Hedgehog I saw! (look at my comment from my Groundhog Day post for 2012) :)