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English~American Day
23 April 2021

The American Community Survey, compiled between 2008 and 2012 and being the most recent analysis, identified 5% of the total population of Bedford County as descending from English ancestors.

The English immigrants to North America brought their holidays to their new homeland. Many of those holidays ~ as the holi portion of the name suggests ~ were holy days. The day on which they honored their patron saint (established during the Tudor period), Saint George was 23 April.

Saint George was born in the Greek region of Cappadocia in what is present-day Turkey. His father, Gerontius, who served in the Roman Army and his mother, Polikronya, who was from Palestine became Christians. Like his father, George became a soldier and served in the Praetorian Guard for the emperor Diocletian. And like his parents, George professed to being a Christian. Ordered to renounce his Christian faith, George refused and was put to death on 23 April 303.

Saint George is best known for the legend of Saint George and the Dragon. Before being attributed to Saint George, the legend of the militaristic saint who tamed and slayed the dragon who had demanded the human sacrifice of a princess was originally associated with Saint Theodore Tiro. The legend began in the Ninth Century, but it was not until the Eleventh Century that it became associated with George of Cappadocia.

The feast day of Saint George was first mentioned in the Durham Collectar, from the Ninth Century. By the early 1400s, work on that day was prohibited. Church attendance was proclaimed to be mandatory on St. George's feast day. The English Reformation of the 1550s saw all religious flags and banners being abolished, with the exception of the white field and centered red cross of St. George. As popular, or perhaps more popular than Christmas throughout England, St. George's Day was widely celebrated by the nation until the union of England and Scotland of 1706/07. Then the holiday of St. Andrew, celebrated throughout Scotland, gave competition to St. George's Day for popularity ratings. Although the celebration of St. George's Day was adversely affected, it did not die out, and continues to be held to the present-day.

Celebrants of St. George's Day delight in everything traditionally 'English'. Until recent times, celebrants would wear a red rose in their lapels. A lapel pin displaying the red cross on white background of St. George's flag is more currently popular. In thinking of color, blue was said to have been St. George's favorite color, so many celebrants dress entirely in blue on this day. Traditional Punch and Judy shows are greatly enjoyed in England, although they aren't as popular in America. Morris Dancers and Mummers lead parades, dancing to English folk music. A favorite variation in music is the singing of the hymn, Jerusalem, by William Blake.

Saints' days have traditionally been times for feasting. And in fact most of the Saints' days were called 'feast days', with the Feast of Saint George being the most elaborate. Traditional English meals, included roast lamb and potatoes called shepherd's pie. Steak and kidney pie is another favorite. It is a savoury pie of diced beef, diced beef, lamb or pork kidney, fried onion and brown gravy. Yorkshire pudding is a baked popover of unsweetened egg and flour batter eaten with roast beef. Bangers and mash consists of sausages and mashed potatoes. Beef Wellington is a fillet of steak, coated in pate or wrapped in parma ham and then rolled in puff pastry. Speaking of pastry, a dish called pasty is similar to what in the United States is called a pot-pie. A pastry of flour, water and shortening is laid out as a flat disc. Diced uncooked beef, potatoes, onions and yellow turnips are spread out over one-half of the pastry. The empty half of the pastry is then folded over the filled half and the edges crimped shut. The pasty is baked and then eaten by holding it in the hands. Bubble and squeak is eaten for breakfast. It consists of potato and cabbage and any leftover vegetables that you might have. The vegetables are diced up and fried with mashed potatoes until browned. In frying, the cabbage makes bubbling and squeaking sounds. In recent years, the popular 'fast-food', fish and chips are enjoyed world-wide on St. George's Day. White fish filet is battered and fried and the 'chips' are what people in the United States would call steak fries. A typical English desert would be spotted dick, a cake-like 'pudding' of suet and dried fruit. No listing of traditional English dishes would be complete if plum pudding was left out. Usually prepared at Christmas time, a plum pudding, like spotted dick, is more like a cake than what people in the United States call 'pudding'. Plum pudding gets its name from the raisins it contains. A 'dough' of suet and bread crumbs, sugar and spices is mixed with candied fruits, raisins and nuts. Although the mixture can then be baked in an oven to produce the desired loaf, the traditional method is to steam it in a double boiler for about four hours. The alcoholic content of the brandy which is one of the ingredients of the mixture will be mostly steamed out, but just before serving the dish, additional brandy is poured over the pudding and it is set aflame and served flambe.

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