BURNHAM - Fall was in the air Wednesday afternoon as area residents and professionals gathered to celebrate an Italian-themed Goose Day at J.P. Edwards Grill & Bar in Burnham.
Mini pumpkins and gourds lined the leaf-covered tables while guests were greeted by members of the Juniata River Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor's Bureau, which hosted the annual event.
Jim Tunall, president and executive director of the chamber, welcomed the guests enthusiastically by saying, "Happy Goose Day!"
Tunall introduced the event's featured guests: Father Bill Weary, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Lewistown, and St. Jude in Mifflintown; Graham Sanders, a tenor vocalist who has performed at the San Carlo Opera House in Naples, Fla.; and Patty Loudenslager, accompanist and director of music at St. John's Lutheran Church in Lewistown.
Sanders, who has been performing for more than 30 years, started the event with a song, accompanied by Loudenslager on the piano.
After the song, Weary gave a presentation to the group about Goose Day, otherwise referred to as St. Michaelmas Day.
Weary said St. Michaelmas Day is known about because of the Bible's Book of Revelation in which Jesus Christ triumphs over evil.
A story was told about Pope Leo XIII in the late 1890s, who had a
vision of a battle between good and evil. He was disturbed by this vision, Weary said, so he composed a prayer to St. Michael, a saint.
Then, the meal was served, which featured goose topped with a blueberry dressing, potatoes, cooked carrots and gnocci, a traditional Italian dish.
After the meal Tunall said he has eaten goose every year since 1970, and the goose served during this year's Goose Day is the most interesting he's ever had.
"I think John (Pannizzo, owner of J.P. Edwards) and his staff ... deserve a round of applause," Tunall said. He then thanked the rest of the featured guests, as well as the community, for showing up to the event.
According to a brochure by the chamber, the celebration of Goose Day in the Juniata River Valley is an example of an old custom that has continued to survive because it has become a tradition.
"Eat goose on Michaelmas Day, and you'll never want money all year 'round," a centuries-old English proverb reads. Believers in the Juniata River Valley adhere to that goose-eating tradition on St. Michaelmas Day, Sept. 29, each year, according to the brochure.
In 1973 the Mifflin County Commissioners issued a proclamation formally establishing "Goose Day" on Sept. 29. In Juniata County, the commissioners signed the "Goose Day" proclamation in 1976, proclaiming Goose Week. Since then, Goose Day has been celebrated in one form or another in the Juniata River Valley. Many restaurants, churches and fraternal organizations serve goose on Goose Day every year, the brochure states.
The history of Goose Day started in 1786 when a Pennsylvania Dutchman named Andrew Pontius moved his family to Snyder County. While traveling to Lancaster to hire someone to help with his farming work, he met an Englishman named Archibald Hunter, according to the release.
After becoming impressed with Hunter, Pontius dropped his original plan to hire someone else, and hired Hunter, and offered him a tenancy. The two drew up a contract which included a clause specifying that accounts were to be settled each year on Sept. 29, the brochure states.
On Sept. 29, Hunter appeared at Pontius' doors with accounts under one arm and a goose under the other. He explained that in England, eating a goose on the Feast of St. Michael, patron saint of soldiers, would bring luck. Since feudal days, accounts in England have been settled, contracts renewed and quarterly rents paid on Michaelmas Day. A goose was an expected payment in kind because in late September the birds were in their prime, according to the brochure.
For more information about the chamber of commerce and visitor's bureau, call 248-6713 or visit www.juniatarivervalley.org.