Aunt Louise and Uncle Bob – Easter & April Fool’s Day


Uncle Bob:  So a couple days ago, we told you a little bit about the traditions and celebrations of Passover.  Today we will answer the second half of our student’s question by sharing about Easter, a celebration that is both Christian and secular.


Aunt Louise:  The Christian observance of Easter actually started 40 days before Easter, on a day we call Ash Wednesday, which this year was on Valentine’s Day.  The season of Lent starts then, lasting 40 days, until Holy (or Maundy) Thursday, just before Easter Sunday, which this year falls on April 1.


Uncle Bob:  And that’s no joke!  (April Fools Day, always occurring on April one, is a very silly observance where folks trick each other with a falsehood, then say “April Fool!”  It has absolutely nothing to do with Easter, yet this year they’re on the same day.) Seriously though, 40 is an often-used number in both the Jewish and Christian traditions.  It generally means a period of testing, trial or probation, and can also represent a generation.  Christian Churches vary on observance, the more formal churches more, many of the casual or contemporary ones less, but all are getting ready:  Easter is coming.


Aunt Louise:  The word “Easter” comes from the Greek and Latin “Pascha.”  It celebrates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, having occurred on the third day after crucifixion (a horrible prolonged death on a cross) by Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD, as described in the New Testament (the second part of the Christian Bible).  It is celebrated in the Western Hemisphere on the first Sunday following a full moon after the vernal equinox on March 21.


Uncle Bob:  That’s why Easter (and Passover) have different dates each year, they’re determined by lunar calendars.  Passover is determined differently from Easter, but usually they are the same week.  I only remember one time (in my lifetime) they did not.


Aunt Louise: And now you know why most Christian churches have a cross, or many crosses on and inside their buildings.  Catholic churches show Jesus still on the cross and are usually fancy.  The more modern denominations (branches or different groups) have an empty cross, and could even meet in an office building.   They are different, but all are celebrating and remembering.


Uncle Bob: And now for the fun symbols of Easter, why don’t you start with the eggs, Louise?


Aunt Louise:  The egg, in many religions, is a symbol of new life or fertility.  Christianity has an additional meaning as a symbol of Jesus’ resurrection or rebirth.  The egg is a good shape for decorating—a popular activity to do with children, and popular with folks who like to do crafts.  Egg hunts are a lot of fun, with either boiled/decorated or candy eggs.  The first Egg Roll (an egg race for children) occurred at our president’s White House in 1878.


Uncle Bob:  My favorite is the Easter Bunny, who comes at night, leaving candy eggs and chocolate bunnies in good children’s Easter baskets!  The Easter Bunny has been around in the USA since the 1700’s, started by German Immigrants in Pennsylvania, whose “Osterhase,” an Easter hare, laid colored eggs.  Eventually, chocolate bunnies, marshmallow peeps (you must try one–folks either love them or think them too sweet!) and other candies joined the boiled and decorated eggs in children’s Easter baskets.


Aunt Louise:  There are several classic books and songs—my favorite is “Peter Cottontail” and a few movies, mostly for children, but not all.


Uncle Bob:  I enjoyed singing “Easter Bonnet” to you after we saw Judy Garland and Fred Astaire in “Easter Parade”—that was a great movie!


Aunt Louise:  Yes, dear.  So, Students, in a little over six weeks, you will have had the opportunity to experience six American holidays or observances:   Valentine’s Day, Ash Wednesday/Lent, St. Patrick’s, Passover, Easter and April Fools.


Uncle Bob:  We hope you have a chance to enjoy several events, whether you choose the meaningful or silly ones.  Have a happy spring!

Until next time, Aunt Louise and Uncle Bob

Aunt Louise and Uncle Bob – Passover


Dear Aunt Louise and Uncle Bob:  Hi!  It’s me again, the student who is always asking questions about holidays. So my question today is about Passover, which I know is a Jewish holiday.  I would also like to know about Easter, which seems to happen at the same time, with unusually colored animals and seems to be Christian.  Can you share some information with me?


Aunt Louise:  Bob and I are happy and flattered that you find it easy to come to us with your questions, and you’re so engaged here in the US during your stay as an international student.  Not all education comes from the classroom or a textbook-and you seem to be noticing culture around you! I think we should break this into two subjects, as Passover and Easter are two distinct events, occurring at the same time.  Bob, what do you know about Passover?


Uncle Bob: Passover is a seven-day Jewish holiday and the most-celebrated one of the year.  It is in some ways a “multi-purpose” holiday.  First it is a celebration of spring and birth (as do many other religions and belief systems); but it is also a celebration of the journey of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt to freedom.  And it is also about taking responsibility for oneself, one’s community, and the world.


The Torah (think of it as the official “book” of Judaism) tells Jews they are to observe Passover for seven days, with the first night including a ritual dinner called a “seder”.  If you are invited to a seder, go! – the experience is interesting and because children are always included, there will be much explanation of what is going on.  You will find this quite interesting, you will be warmly welcomed, and the food is good.  Our niece and her family have been to several seders, and enjoyed them!


Aunt Louise:  Nowadays there are community seders, not just ones held in the homes of Jewish families.  Do an online search of “community seders in atlanta 2018” (or other city) and you will find opportunities to share in this Jewish ritual.  One unique item is the seder plate with symbolic decorations, which is at every table.  The plate may be an ornate family heirloom or a paper plate decorated by the children.  You will find the shankbone, karpas, chazeret, charoset, maror, and egg on the plate.


  • Roasted lamb shankbone: One of the most striking symbols of Passover is the roasted lamb shankbone (called zeroah), which commemorates the paschal (lamb) sacrifice made the night the ancient Hebrews fled Egypt. Some people say it symbolizes the outstretched arm of God (the Hebrew word zeroah can mean “arm”). (Back in the 11th century Jewish authority said you could use a beet instead – which is often what vegetarians do.)
  • Roasted egg: The roasted egg (baytsah) is a symbol in many different cultures, maybe even yours, often signifying springtime and renewal. One interpretation is that it represents one of the sacrificial offerings which was performed in the days of the Second Temple. Another popular interpretation is that the egg is like the Jewish people: the hotter you make it for them, the tougher they get! This egg isn’t even eaten during the meal; the shell just needs to look really roasted.
  • Maror (“bitter herb”): Any bitter herb will work, though horseradish is the most common. Bitter herbs bring tears to the eyes and recall the bitterness of slavery. The seder refers to the slavery in Egypt, but you are expected to look at your own “bitter enslavements” such as addiction or a bad habit.
  • Charoset: There’s nothing further from maror than charoset (“kha-ROH-set”), a sweet salad of apples, nuts, wine, and cinnamon that represents the mortar used by the Hebrew slaves to make bricks.
  • Karpas: Karpas is a green vegetable, usually parsley (though any spring green will do). While karpas may symbolize the freshness of spring, others say people eat it to make them feel like nobility or aristocracy. Because the seder ritual is to be personal, you might find that some families use boiled potatoes for karpas, continuing a tradition from Eastern Europe where it was difficult to obtain fresh green vegetables.
  • Chazeret: The chazeret (“khah-ZER-et”) is a second bitter herb, most often romaine lettuce, but people also use the leafy greens of a horseradish or carrot plant. The symbolism is the same as that of maror.
  • Salt water: Salt water symbolizes the tears and sweat of enslavement, yet it’s also a symbol for purity, springtime, and the sea, the mother of all life. Often a single bowl of salt water sits on the table into which each person dips their karpas during the seder. Then, it’s traditional to begin the actual seder meal with each person eating a hardboiled egg (not the roasted egg!) dipped in the bowl of salt water.
  • Matzah: Perhaps the most important symbol on the seder table is a plate that has a stack of three pieces of matzah (unleavened bread) on it. The matzot (that’s plural for matzah) are typically covered with a cloth. People have come up with numerous interpretations for the three matzot. Some say they represent the Kohen class (the Jewish priests in ancient times), the Levis (who supported the priests), and the Israelites (the rest of the Jews). What symbolism you attribute to this trinity isn’t all that important, as long as you’re thinking about it.
  • Wine cups and wine (or grape juice): Everyone at the seder has a (usually very small) cup or glass from which they drink four cups of wine. Traditionally, the four cups represent the four biblical promises of redemption: “I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you from their slavery, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm, and with great judgments. And I will take you to me for a people . . .” Others say the four cups represent the four letters in the unspeakable Name of God.


Uncle Bob: How interesting this is, Louise.  Now I am thinking we should find a seder to experience this Spring…the official day is March 30, but there are seders that are held throughout the seven day celebration.  Let’s do that!


Aunt Louise:  I think we should, Bob.  We should take a lesson from our inquisitive student who asking about and learning about new things….





Aunt Louise and Uncle Bob – St. Patrick’s Day

Dear Uncle Bob and Aunt Louise: I came to study in the US last fall, and I have learned a lot about your country. There were interesting fall events – your Thanksgiving is awesome! – and there were such a variety of traditions during the various December holidays. Now it is spring and it looks as if there will be more events, holidays and traditions for me to learn about and experience. So tell me about St. Patrick’s Day!

Uncle Bob: March 17th honors St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.  That brings up the question of just who was St. Patrick?  Louise, can you help me out here?

Aunt Louise: Of Course, Bob. St. Patrick is very popular in Ireland, even though not too much is known about him. Some of what we hear about St. Patrick comes about because Irish folks love to spin exaggerated tales. The age-old legend is that St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland, but this is probably just a tall tale. We do know St. Patrick was born in Britain, captured by raiders and taken to Ireland when he was 16. As a captive, he led a lonely life as a shepherd for 6 years, and became a devout Christian. St. Pat was ordained as a priest to minister to Christians in Ireland and to convert the Irish, who were then mostly pagans, to Christianity. St. Patrick created the famous Celtic Cross, putting the sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the traditional Christian cross so that the result would seem more appealing to the Irish.

Uncle Bob: So, when was he canonized to become a Saint?

Aunt Louise: Never! Saint Patrick was never canonized by the Catholic Church. Nonetheless, many people and churches throughout the world see him as a saint for his missionary work. He died on March 17, 460 AD. The date of his death is called Saint Patrick’s Day in his honor.

Uncle Bob: A life well lived, especially since he is celebrated 1400 years later! But I think perhaps the celebrations have evolved over time…

Aunt Louise: Indeed! Irish families have celebrated the feast of St Patrick as a religious holiday for years—during the Christian season of Lent, (more on that soon) this allowed a celebratory day of dancing, drinking and feasting on meat. That is why corned beef (with cabbage) is traditional dinner on March 17th. That religious feast day has evolved into a variety of festivals. Today Irish culture is celebrated with parades, special foods, music, dancing, and of course, wearing the color green.

Uncle Bob: It’s a whole day of green! Chicago, Illinois dyes the Chicago River green! Savannah, Georgia dyes the water in all of their lovely fountains green. And there will be green beer in the pubs and bars!

Aunt Louise: Our students just need to remember to drink that green beer legally (you have to be at least 21 years old) and responsibly (so that a good time does not lead to tragedy).

Uncle Bob: Our student readers come from countries around the globe, but no matter where they are from they need to know that in America for that one day of March 17th, everyone is Irish! So until next time, here’s an Irish toast…

May your blessings outnumber

The shamrocks that grow,

And may trouble avoid you

Wherever you go.

See the source imageImage result for shamrock clip art

AMIS Day 2018

EVENT IS NEXT WEEK!  MARK YOUR CALENDARS- We will celebrate “40 years of international friendships” on Sunday, April 22, 2018 from 3-5 p.m. at St. Martin In The Fields Episcopal Church located at 3110 Ashford-Dunwoody Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30319. Questions about the event? CONTACT US HERE  or DON’T DELAY RSVP NOW

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Join us as we look back on the past with Founder and Executive Director Emeritus Rev. Dr. Fahed Abu-Akel and where we’re going into the future with Executive Director Irene Wong.

Aunt Louise and Uncle Bob – Valentine’s Day

Dear Uncle Bob and Aunty Louise:  Thank you for the opportunity to ask you questions. I want to know about Valentine’s Day, February 14.  I can tell from the stores that this might be a holiday for small children and adults too.  Would you please explain Valentine’s Day?


Uncle Bob:  Well, you got that right!  Valentine’s Day is for children and adults, but it’s very different for the two groups.  There’s a whole heap of history, and a bunch of advertising and marketing.  We’ll try to touch on it all.  Louise, why don’t you start with children…


Aunt Louise:  Valentine’s is not a school vacation holiday, but most children celebrate friendship and receive lots of candy at the end of the school day.  I remember helping decorate “mailboxes” for the classroom, and receiving quite a few lovely valentines our daughter made at school.  Many teachers sent home class lists, reminding the parents to have their child send valentine cards to everyone in the classroom, so no one was left out.


Uncle Bob:  But when it comes to teenagers and adults, it is more of a boyfriend/girlfriend or, as I prefer to say, sweetheart, sort of thing.


Aunt Louise:  But many of us say “Happy Valentine’s Day,” a lot, to lots of people.  Especially women, who buy 85% of the Valentine cards sold, which were first mass-produced in 1840.


Uncle Bob:  And that brings us to the possible origins of Valentine’s Day, which includes saints in the Catholic Church, named either Valentine or Valentinus, who was imprisoned for defying an order to not marry soldiers (Emperor Claudius II thought single men were better soldiers).  There were two other Valentines who wrote letters from prison.  There are several other ideas and stories of how the holiday may have started, but we really don’t know for sure.


Louise:  The oldest known written valentine is a poem by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife in 1415, while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.  Cards were first mass-produced in 1840.  I don’t remember if our parents gave candy or flowers to each other like folks do now, but those certainly have become popular the last few years.  Bob usually brings me some candy, and some years we’ve planted another rosebush in the garden.  (I like that the best of all.)


Uncle Bob:  Hmm…I guess I better get my act together, and go find another rosebush.  We hope to talk with y’all again soon!


Aunt Louise:  Yes, don’t forget to write to us at

Aunt Louise and Uncle Bob – Kwanzaa

Dear Uncle Bob and Aunt Louise: I am hearing about a holiday called Kwanzaa that is coming up soon in December and I have never heard of it before. I reached out to my very own uncle and aunt back in my country to ask them about this because they traveled to the US in the early 1960s. They told me they never heard of a holiday called Kwanzaa! How can this be? What is Kwanzaa?

Aunt Louise replies: That seems pretty mysterious, doesn’t it? How could your aunt and uncle possibly miss a holiday during their time in the US? The mystery is solved when you learn Kwanzaa is a created holiday for celebrating family and culture within the African and African American community. And it only in 1966 that this holiday, created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of Africana Studies, came to be. This seven-day cultural festival takes place from December 26 through January 1 each year, with families and communities coming together for events that reflect the Seven Principles (called the Nguzo Saba).

Uncle Bob replies: Louise, I always knew I married a smart woman! Tell me more about those Seven Principles.

Aunt Louise: Bob, dear, marrying me made you a smart man. The Seven Principles are…

  • Umoja (Unity)
  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
  • Nia (Purpose)
  • Kuumba (Creativity)
  • Imani (Faith)

On Imani everyone must ask themselves: who am I, am I really who I am and am I all I ought to be? This is a beautiful idea that speaks not only to Africans but to all people concerned with reaffirming family, community and culture, and in realizing that essential meaning and purpose of human life, to bring good into the world.

Uncle Bob: That message is downright lovely. And I bet the celebrations themselves are lovely as well.

Aunt Louise: Indeed, my dear. Colorful clothes and art, fresh fruits, drumming and music, candle-lighting, artistic performances, sharing beverages, and of course a feast. All of this makes for a “Joyous Kwanzaa” which is the holiday greeting.

Uncle Bob: I am glad that one of the international students asked us this. Not only did I learn something, I think I’ve missed out. Now that “bucket lists” have become popular, I am adding a Kwanzaa celebration to mine. Maybe one of our readers (or “followers,” as they say) will invite us to celebrate with them.

Aunt Louise: That would be lovely.

Introducing… Aunt Louise and Uncle Bob

Welcome Reception was spectacular!


On Saturday, September 16 we hosted the 40th Annual International Student and Scholar Welcome Reception at Georgia Tech.  There was a crowd of over 400 that included students from various colleges and universities,  Kiwanis Clubs members, and AMIS supporters and Board members.  We enjoyed wonderful jazz music performed by the Kennesaw State University Jazz Trio and food sponsored by Carrabba’s of Kennesaw.

Students and volunteers had conversations, shared laughs, and enjoyed the event.  Many signed up to either be an Amigo as a volunteer or receive an Amigo as a student.  A big thank you for all that participated to make the event a success!  DSC_5279.JPG

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Welcome Reception next week, Saturday, 9/16!

Please help us with our headcount at the 40th Annual International Student and Scholar Welcome Reception will be held on Saturday, September 16 from 2-4pm at Georgia Tech Student Center Ballroom (350 Ferst Drive NW, Atlanta, GA 30332).


New Executive Director Named!

Dear AMIS Family,

I am delighted to introduce you to Irene Wong, our new AMIS Executive Director!

Irene comes to AMIS with a unique combination of experience, education and interests in non-profit leadership, student ministry, volunteering, and international programming.  She currently serves as President of the Parent Teacher Association at Teasley Elementary School. With this experience, Irene brings to AMIS demonstrated success leading a non-profit through changing times, supporting volunteers, and delivering on its mission.  Irene also has years of ministry experience, including international and student ministry.

Irene started with AMIS on Wednesday, August 23, just in time for the start of our new program year.   The Executive Director position is now a part-time role, and Irene will set “in-office” hours after a period of orientation.  Her contact information is or 404.846.4395.

I want to take a moment to thank our Program Administrator Dené Dixon for the outstanding job she has done, keeping AMIS going and preparing for the program year.  Irene and Dené will be a great team.

I hope to see you at the September 16 Welcome Reception.   Come and meet Irene, welcome new and returning international students and scholars, and reconnect with others in the AMIS family!

Donna Poseidon, President



As a third generation American of Chinese descent, Irene has had a life-long interest in international cultures.  She grew up in New York City and majored in East Asian Studies at Brown University.  In college, she joined InterVarsity Christian Fellowship where she developed a passion for campus ministry.  She spent a year teaching English in China before serving as a campus staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship for eight years, during which time she started an international student ministry at Brown, led summer Global Projects to China, and became a new staff fundraising trainer.  In 2000, she moved to Atlanta to work with InterVarsity at Emory University.   After that, she went to Fuller Theological Seminary for a Master of Divinity, and then returned to Atlanta to marry her husband, who she met in Atlanta.

Irene was a Ministry Director at the Atlanta Taiwanese Presbyterian Church for 3 years before stepping away from professional ministry after her second child was born.  Even as a stay-at-home parent, Irene has been an active volunteer at her church and local public school.  At North Avenue Presbyterian Church, Irene has been an active elder involved with International Student ministry at Georgia Tech, Children and Family Ministries, and Strategic Planning.  Irene is a Candidate for Ministry in the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta.  Irene and her husband, William, have three daughters ages 11, 9, and 6 and spending time with her family is one of Irene’s greatest joys.

From Irene: “I am so excited and delighted to be joining the AMIS family.  What a wonderful opportunity to be involved in the ministry of building friendship and hospitality in a world that desperately needs the benefits of reaching out across cultures.  I look forward to serving international students and getting to know all of you as we walk together, talk together, and build a more peace-filled world.”

Irene Wong, Executive Director

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