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

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

International Student Blog

Introducing… Aunt Louise and Uncle Bob

Uncle Bob and Aunt Louise are a traditional southern couple, kind, easy to talk with, not too fancy, but they like to do things “the right way.” Uncle Bob washes the car and tends the garden and his hybrid rosebushes. Aunt Louise keeps a clean house, embroiders and crochets. They cook at home, but since they’ve retired, they enjoy going out for chicken biscuit breakfasts—it’s just too much trouble to make two biscuits!

So why would you want to know Aunt Louise and Uncle Bob? Perhaps you have a question about American or Southern culture or etiquette, but don’t know whom to ask. Aunt Louise and Uncle Bob are ready to help! Send your questions via email to Aunt Louise and Uncle Bob at

We’ll start with some Thanksgiving questions …

What is this Thanksgiving holiday? We don’t have this at home.

Uncle Bob replies: In 1620, some folks we call the Pilgrims came over from Plymouth England, on a ship called the Mayflower, looking for religious freedom. They had a dangerous trip and a hard winter, but they met a Native American called Squanto the following Spring. Squanto showed the survivors how to plant corn and other vegetables, to use the maple sap (syrup), and to avoid poisonous plants. The remaining Pilgrims (about half) survived. Thanksgiving may be one of the first harvest festivals, a celebration of thanks to Squanto, his friends who helped, and to God. They repeated this celebration the following year (1623). The holiday was celebrated often with various dates until President Lincoln made the fourth Thursday in November a national holiday in 1863.

Why turkey? Or all those pies?

Aunt Louise answers: Now everyone loves to eat! And we all eat too much of it at Thanksgiving! But the Pilgrims did not have turkey at the first Thanksgiving, and they were out of sugar and there were no ovens, so they did not eat any pies. We know from diaries that Pilgrim men went fishing and hunting before the event, so we can assume they ate seafood and venison as well as the bounty from the gardens! (I can my veggies in Mason jars, and they are a beautiful sight! My grandmother would dry green beans strung on thread and called “leather britches” (pants). They weren’t pretty, but they were tasty!) My best guess on the turkey, other than grocery advertising, goes to a bit of artwork: Norman Rockwell/ Freedom from Wanta painting of a multi-generational family dinner which was distributed in 1943 popular magazine, The Saturday Evening Post. (The artist said it was the only time he ate the model!) So, there’s no rule that you have to have turkey at Thanksgiving, but most of us do feast!

Aunt Louise: We’re going to sit on the porch swing a while and have some iced tea. We would love to hear from you. Send us some questions, and we’ll write back directly.

Uncle Bob: She means in the next newsletter. See y’all next time!


Aunt Louise and Uncle Bob

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