Dearest Elena… today’s book is very important because it’s about some of the most popular holidays of the year – Christmas and Hanukkah. Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein is about a young Jewish girl who really wants to celebrate Christmas, a holiday celebrated throughout the world. People decorate their homes with colorful lights and decorations. Then, the night before Christmas, children put cookies out for a man named Santa Claus who rides a sleigh driven by reindeers. He flies over homes and comes down the chimneys to drop off gifts for children to open on Christmas Day. It celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, a very special person in the Christian faith and for many people all over the world.
The problem for Rachel is that her family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, because she is Jewish. Her family celebrates Hanukkah, the festival of lights. Jewish families light a menorah that has nine candles, eight candles for each night of Hanukkah and one used to light them. Hanukkah is about miracles. As the Jews were fighting against oppressors, they needed to save their temple, but had only enough oil to light the temple for one day. What a miracle! The oil lasted eight days and for this reason they were able to win their battle.
Rachel is sad that she can’t celebrate Christmas like so many of her friends, but this isn’t her family’s tradition. She tries writing a letter to Santa Claus hoping that he will visit her house, even though she is Jewish. She explains that she has been very good all year, but Santa doesn’t come to her house.
She is extremely upset. Her mother explains, sometimes, no matter how badly you want something you have to accept what is. On Christmas Day Rachel’s family goes to a Chinese restaurant and she sees her friends, Lucy Deng, Mike Rashid and Amina Singh because they don’t celebrate Christmas either. They follow their families’ traditions. Suddenly Rachel doesn’t feel so bad. She is not the only one who doesn’t celebrate Christmas.
Dearest Elena, I want you to understand that people are different and so sometimes our holiday celebrations are different too. Rachel’s mother explains, it’s important to accept who you are, but perhaps more importantly, take ownership of your traditions because they are all beautiful. They make you who you are.
Elena, like Rachel Rosenstein, you are Jewish and celebrate Hanukkah. Your Mommy feels it is very fitting to celebrate Hanukkah this year because it’s about lights and miracles. You are our miracle and YOU light up our lives.