Two Love Birds Bring The Holiday Spirit To The White House
Growing up in Piura, Peru Hugo Sánchez always noticed his classmate, Marité. But despite his best efforts she didn’t return his feelings. Hugo left Peru for the U.S. with his family at the age of 13, but returned for a summer vacation three years later.
This time, there was a spark. The two kicked up a whirlwind romance, but they were ripped apart as he returned to the states.
Marité Espinoza Sánchez and Hugo Sánchez in 2007 in Urbana, IL. Courtesy of Marité Sánchez for StoryCorps.
In 2022 the couple had been married for 15 years and through Marité’s work as an expert crafter they were selected to volunteer as White House holiday decorators. Every holiday season, people from across the country are invited by First Lady Jill Biden to decorate the White House.
Marité Espinoza Sánchez and Hugo Sánchez at the White House Decorating Event in Washington, D.C. in November 2022. Courtesy of Marité Sánchez for StoryCorps.
Hugo and Marité Sánchez took a break from wreath making and tinsel spreading to record a conversation with StoryCorps.
Top Photo: Marité Espinoza Sánchez and Hugo Sánchez at their StoryCorps interview in Washington, D.C. on November 27, 2022. By Bella Gonzalez for StoryCorps.
This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Originally aired December 23, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
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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.
“It’s Still Worth Celebrating” Two Friends Reflect on Finding Joy During Challenging Times
Jamie Olivieri and Yennie Neal-Achigbu have been by each other’s side since the fifth grade. As adults, Jamie was there for the birth of two of Yennie’s three children, and has acted as a surrogate parent for the kids. They fondly refer to her as “Auntie Pasta.”
They’ve shared many happy moments and have also stood by each other through the passing of Jamie’s mom and Yennie’s husband, Alexander Achigbu. They supported each other through the grief of both losses, and even created new traditions in the midst of the sadness.
Photo: (Left to right) Zuri, Xoan, and Lyon Achigbu. Christmas 2014, Bronx, NY. Courtesy of Jamie Olivieri.
“Auntie Pasta’s Annual Christmastime Sleepover,” a tradition that started after Alexander’s death, is an eagerly anticipated Christmas celebration for Jamie, Yennie, and Yennie’s three children, Zuri (aged 10), Lyon (age 8), and Xoan (age 6).
After a tough 2020, Jamie and Yennie had a conversation using StoryCorps Connect to reflect on almost 30 years of friendship, and how they continue to find joy even in the most challenging of times.
Top Photo: (L) Yennie Neal-Achigbu and Jamie Olivieri, 1998. (R) Yennie Neal-Achigbu and Jamie Olivieri, 2012, Yonkers, NY. Courtesy of Jamie Olivieri.
Originally aired December 25, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition.