If your kids have ever felt out of place around the Christmas season, and most of your friends didn’t seem to understand why you celebrated eight nights of Hanukkah, then Jewish actress Amanda Peet’s new children’s book “Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein” is the perfect gift to get your kids.
We were lucky to be able to talk with Peet about what inspired her to write a children’s book about Christmas, what her own childhood was like, and what the holidays look like for her family now.
What inspired you to write this book?
My co-author Andrea Troyer and I were in Belfast looking for Hanukah presents for our kids. Not an easy task. (We live in Belfast every summer while our husbands shoot “Game of Thrones” there.) We started talking about what Christmas is like for Jewish kids…how left out they feel. Originally, we wanted to write a book about how awesome Hanukah is. That proved to be really difficult.
What was it like for you growing up in an interfaith family? Was it ever confusing?
Both my parents are atheists, so no matter what we celebrated, it was never about religion and there wasn’t any conflict about it.
What do you and your family (and extended family) do on Christmas currently? What about Hanukkah?
My sister and her family come here to LA and we have a fake Hanukah; we light the candles and everyone gives presents. It’s fake, because we do it no matter when they get here, even if Hanukah has already passed. Even if it’s on Christmas day. It’s based on my sister’s work schedule!
How do your own kids feel about being raised Jewish when so many American children celebrate Christmas? Do they feel left out?
They used to be confused about why everyone was talking about Santa, but not them. Why everyone was getting presents, but not them. They wanted a tree. But eventually, they realized it’s not the end of the world.
What’s your own favorite Hanukkah memory?
My favorite memories are the ones since I’ve has kids. My sister and I wrap presents together. We hide in our bedroom and divvy stuff up–toys and books–and usually we drink too much, and it’s anyone’s guess what ends up getting wrapped.
If you could only teach your children one thing, what would it be?
When they’re a little older they can read George Saunders’s commencement address for Syracuse University. That about sums it up.