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French~American Day
14 July 2021

The American Community Survey, compiled between 2008 and 2012 and being the most recent analysis, identified 1% of the total population of Bedford County as descending from French ancestors.

Known as Bastille Day in the United States, the 14th of July has been celebrated by French~Americans as the day that the Bastille in Paris was stormed by patriots in the summer of 1789, and the beginning of the French Revolution. The Bastille was a prison that also served as the armory for the French Army's arms and ammunition. The people imprisoned at the Bastille tended to be political prisoners who had been jailed for unspecified crimes. In the summer of 1789 there actually were only seven prisoners in the Bastille. In the summer of 1789 as Louis XVI began to remove supporters of the Third Estate from his court, the citizens of Paris came to fear that the King would unleash his army against them. They stormed the Bastille to take control of the arms and ammunition stored there. The common people attacking the Bastille were joined by the French Guards, who normally guarded public buildings. Some historians believe that the storming of the Bastille was a turning point in the French Revolution.

As a result of the storming of the Bastille and its capitulation, the National Constituent Assembly became the effective governing body of France. Their first act, on 4 August, was to abolish feudalism which had survived in the nation since the Middle Ages. They also composed a Constitution for the nation.

The French people refer to this holiday by the name Fete Nationale (National Celebration). It was first held on the year following the storming of the Bastille, and during that first annual celebration on 14 July 1790, King Louis XVI swore an oath of allegiance to the new Constitution. The holiday, therefore, is more of a celebration of the unity accomplished between the Legislative Assembly and the King than it is of the storming of the Bastille. Over the years, interest in the holiday dwindled, It was revived in 1880, at which time on 6 July it was declared a national holiday by the Legislative Assembly.

Every year since 1880, a military parade is held in Paris. Neighboring countries' militaries are often invited to participate in the parade.

French descendants in the United States celebrate Bastille Day with performances of traditional French music and dinners of traditional French food. Those traditional French dishes include ratatouille (a vegetable stew consisting of eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, tomato, onion and garlic), crepes (a very thin pancake made from flour, eggs, sugar, salt, water, butter and milk) and quiche Lorraine (a type of pie consisting of a pastry shell filled with a custard made from eggs, cheese and some sort of meat, such as bacon or seafood). Croissants, a type of roll eaten with other dishes, are very flaky and buttery pastries usually formed in a crescent shape. A food that is quintessentially 'French' is escargot, or snails. Escargot is usually served as an hors d'oeuvre. The dish is prepared by removing the snail from its shell, cooking it in garlic butter, wine or chicken stock and then reinserting it into the shell (to be removed by the diner). A special dish for which the French are famous is Coq au vin, which is a dish consisting of chicken braised with wine, to which are added bits of bacon and mushrooms as a garnish.

The music of France is often the classical and romantic music associated with Claude Debussy, Georges Bizet and Maurice Ravel. Other French composers, including Erik Satie and Albert Roussel, pioneered the electronic and industrial-inspired music that is commonly called 'New Age' music today.

Bastille Day is a day to engage in casual physical games such as petanque, a lawn game similar to boules in which competitors toss hard balls to knock their other balls closer to the main target ball. The balls started out as all wooden spheres covered with nails but eventually developed into light-weight bronze-aluminum alloy spheres. Certain cities hold foot races as a way to memorialize the storming of the Bastille.

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