Celebrating the Holiday Season – StoryCorps
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It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Ramadan: Couple Reflects On Their New Holiday Tradition

Suzanne Jaber grew up in Lebanon, and while her family is Muslim, they were surrounded by many Christian neighbors and their holiday traditions. After moving to the United States and raising a family of her own, she wanted to create her own traditions that melded the celebrations of both cultures. With the help of her husband, Ali Jaber, Suzanne ended up creating something new entirely: a moon tree.

Suzanne’s creation is shaped like a crescent moon — a symbol of Islam — and it’s covered in Christmas tree branches. Now, Suzanne makes moon trees for people all over the world, who are celebrating all types of holidays, including Ramadan.

In 2019, Suzanne and Ali came to StoryCorps to talk about what originally inspired Suzanne to make her first moon tree, the process of it all coming together, and what the month for Ramadan symbolizes for them.

Published on May 7, 2021. 

Yelitza Castro and Willie Davis

Yelitza Castro is an undocumented immigrant who works as a housekeeper in Charlotte, North Carolina. Since 2010 she has also been cooking meals for homeless men and women in her community.

Through this work, she has gotten to know Willie Davis, who has been the recipient of many of those meals.

Yelitza and Willie’s story is one in a series of real-life stories presented by StoryCorps and Upworthy reminding us #WhoWeAre—everyday Americans speaking to our best selves.

Listen to Yelitza and Willie’s original StoryCorps interview.

StoryCorps and Upworthy, the mission-driven media company that reaches more than 200 million people each month, have joined forces to launch #WhoWeAre, a campaign to share the stories of everyday Americans, build compassion, and offer hope to a divided nation. #WhoWeAre calls on Americans to reach across perceived divides and listen to one another.
Learn more about the campaign.

StoryCorps 451: Holiday Highlights

‘Tis the season for the StoryCorps Christmas podcast.

sears-santa-adThis week we hear stories about a father who helped start the annual tradition of keeping track of Santa Claus as he flies across the globe making his Christmas Eve rounds, a struggling mother reveals how she was able to throw big, memorable holiday celebrations for her children, and a teacher who helped a young boy deal with sadness and loss during most children’s happiest time of the year.

Every Christmas Eve, people worldwide log on to the official Santa Tracker to follow the man himself (along with his eight reindeer and Rudolph), as they deliverer presents to boys and girls. In our first story, Terri Van Keuren (top left), Richard Shoup, and Pamela Farrell (top right) discuss the important role their father—Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup—played in starting that tradition.

Colonel Shoup was stationed at the Continental Air Defense Command (now known as NORAD) which was tasked with protecting U.S. air space from Soviet attack in 1955 when a misprint in a Colorado Springs newspaper (see above) listed the number for one of the secure military phones on his desk as a direct line for children to call and talk to Santa. Much to his surprise and consternation, a phone that normally remained silent, began to ring regularly.

His three children came to StoryCorps to remember their father, an important and serious man with an accomplished military record, who considered giving kids yearly updates on the location of Kris Kringle his proudest professional accomplishment.

conley_600x400Next we hear from Carrie Conley whose husband left her to raise their six children on her own. She came to StoryCorps with her youngest child, Jerry Johnson (pictured together at left), who told his mom, “I cannot remember one Christmas that I didn’t feel like the luckiest kid in the world.”

What Jerry didn’t know at the time was how his mother made their celebrations so special. Carrie would save up all her sick days no matter how ill she was and later cash them out, taking the money to the Salvation Army to purchase toys donated by wealthier families in anticipation of the new ones their children would soon be receiving.

And while Carrie made a lot of sacrifices for her children, one concession she would not make, regardless of how much holiday spirit she possessed, was to give credit where it was not due, telling her son, “I never did tell you it was Santa Claus ’cause I said that I can not give no man credit for when I work.”

prd000172_g3Finally, we hear from John Cruitt, whose mother passed away two days before Christmas in 1958. At the time, John was a student in Cecile Doyle’s third grade class at Emerson School in Kearny, New Jersey.

When John returned to school, Cecile was there for him with gentle words and a kind gesture that gave John hope at a very difficult time. More than 50 years later—John, now a teacher himself—reached out to Cecile to thank her for helping change his life.

And while they came to StoryCorps to talk about how Cecile helped John, she revealed how his letter, after all these years, helped her through a difficult time as well.

Merry Christmas from the StoryCorps podcast.

The Road Home

Eddie Lanier struggled with alcoholism for over 40 years, until his 28th stint in rehab finally led to sobriety. Homeless and hungry, Eddie found a friend in David Wright, a passerby whose frequent donations stood out. Four years after they shared Eddie’s remarkable story with StoryCorps, David persuaded Eddie to move into his home. They still live together to this day.

“The Road Home” is part of StoryCorps’ first-ever half-hour animated special, Listening Is an Act of Love, which premiered November 28, 2013 on the PBS documentary series, POV. Watch the special for free on our YouTube channel. Now also available for download on iTunes—or purchase the DVD!