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Hanukkah Design Brief: Menorah Miracles, Honoring Heritage and Celebrating Chanukah

Denise Beverly is a stay at home mom of one, wife, self-taught photographer/digital artist living in beautiful East Tennessee. A Christian, in awe of creation, seeking to express gratitude and a creative spirit through her art. Check out her shop, db Visual Arts.

Hanukkah or Chanukah as it can be called is a holiday based on a miracle.  The eight-day festival of light begins at sunset on Tuesday evening, December 20, 2011 and it celebrates the triumph of light over darkness.  

More than twenty-one centuries ago, a small band of faithful Jews defeated a mighty army and took back the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.  They wanted to rededicate it to the service of God.  However, when they sought oil to light the Temple Menorah, a seven-branched candlestick, they found only a small jar of oil that had not been defamed by the defeated Greek Army.  This small jar of oil, equal to one days supply, miraculously lasted the entire 8 days.  In order to commemorate the miracle the festival of Chanukah was instituted.  

To honor the heritage of the Jewish people, the lighting of the Hanukkiyah takes place and is a centerpiece of the festival. The Hanukkiyah is a candelabrum with eight candleholders in a row and a ninth candleholder, called the Shamash or “helper” candle.  The Shamash is lit first, is used to light the other candles, and then is returned to the ninth candle spot, which is set apart from the others.  While different from the seven-branched menorah used in the temple it is nonetheless a menorah. 

On the first night a single candle is lit, on the second two, the third night three and so on until all eight are lit on the final night. Prayers of thanksgiving and praise, Hallel and Al HaNissim are added to the daily prayers.  These traditions remind those involved of past provisions and miracles.

However, amid the solemn and ritualistic traditions, there is a great deal of joyous and fun celebration. Children play with the dreidel, a spinning top on which are inscribed the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hei and shin, an acronym for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, "a great miracle happened there.  It is brightly colored and has a total of 8 sides shaped much like a blocky cone upside down. There is also the giving of Chanukah gelt, or gifts of money, to the children.

Wonderful foods fried in oil are also in abundance, Latkes , a yummy potato pancake , Sufganiot, a type of fried jelly-filled doughnut; Loukoumades are deep-fried puffs dipped in honey or sugar and in the more modern days a variety of cheeses and dairy have also been added to the symbolic foods for this celebration.

Overall this is a time of Menorah Miracles, Honoring Heritage and Celebrating Chanukah.  Cards could be created with symbols of the festival such as the menorah, dreidel, or scrumptious fried foods piled high on plates.  Traditional colors of blue, white and silver are acceptable as well as the image of the Star of David.   A time of light overcoming darkness, family and, friends good food and miracles.  A combination that is hard to beat these days.


A Christmas Design Brief by Laura Holman

Laura's shop, The Art of Laura J. Holman, has been a customer favorite of Card Gnome since she joined. Nature, animals, and especially people inspire Laura on a daily basis. She's an award winning advertising art director, published illustrator, and has taught art for many rewarding years to elementary school students. Laura mainly creates art from a place of joy for the young and young at heart.


Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa... It is hard to deny that we all get caught up in the joy of the holiday season. Once those colorful holiday lights start twinkling, it would take a real scrooge to not smile. Having children around also helps to get into the mood as their excitement is contagious.

The mood certainly comes early enough, even overshadowing poor Thanksgiving. I know one store this year that will hold off Christmas decorations until the day after our beloved turkey day. But we all know in the card biz, we have to start thinking about Christmas as we sweat through the last month of summer. My sons have such a love for Christmas that I will often hear Christmas songs in August streaming from their laptops; and these aren’t little kids we’re talking about. That’s the start for me and it keeps on going.

I find inspiration for fresh new Christmas designs everywhere; from the catalogs I get in the mail to the stores I shop in. The catalogs are great, especially if they’re high end ones like Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom where the photographs are beautiful and the trends are apparent and fresh with the latest in ornament designs, lighting, etc. Always an inspiration, these visuals launch me into my own ideas and ways to make them mine without copying them. I guess for me it’s what’s in my visual memory mixed with new inspiration. As I shop around at the stores, I will pull out my phone and photograph anything that I find inspiring. I’m sure I probably get a few weird looks but no one has stopped me yet! When I think of traditional Christmas elements like Poinsettias, elves, snowmen and reindeer, I try and illustrate them in unusual and interesting ways. And blending in other colors with the traditional color scheme of red and green can also go a long way in inspiration and making your card stand out.

I try and have fresh eyes to Christmas every year, as though seeing it through a child’s eye. To really look at everything that is familiar in a new and interesting way. It’s really akin to stopping and smelling the roses. Stop and take a good hard look at that same old ornament (Santa, wreath, etc.) and you will truly see what you're looking for… inspiration for your next great design!

Cards and Heroes Holiday Campaign

Card Gnome to give 10,000 Free Greeting Cards to Military through Cards and Heroes Holiday Campaign


This holiday season, Card Gnome would like to thank our military for their service and sacrifice. We understand that sharing the holidays with the ones you love is part of what makes this time of year so magical. Many of our neighbors, friends, and family who are actively serving our country cannot be close to home, so we’d like to do our part to help. To help bridge that distance we created Cards and Heroes, providing free holiday greeting cards to members of the military to send home to their loved ones.

Through the Cards and Heroes program, active service members can choose one free greeting card to send to their loved ones simply by entering an email address ending in .mil when registering on the site. After registering, service members may choose a holiday card of their choice to be sent, postage paid, on a date that they select. While a card certainly cannot replace having our service members home during the holidays, receiving something that we can hold which sends their love helps them not seem quite so far away, even if just for a moment.

Card Gnome has also made it easy to participate with the American Red Cross "Mail for Heroes" campaign, by giving those who are not part of the military the ability to send a card of appreciation to service members and veterans this holiday season. All cards sent to service members are $4.99 and include all postage and shipping costs.

Visit the Cards and Heroes page and send a card today!

How many of us really stop to think about the true meaning of Veteran’s Day and all that it celebrates?  It seems to be one of those holidays that can get lost in shuffle of fall excitement over Halloween, Thanksgiving and the holidays.  I can’t remember ever seeing very many Veterans Day cards – although I hope there are many and that they exist.  This holiday is truly a wonderful opportunity to say “thank you for all you’ve done for our country” to all living American veterans for the sacrifices they’ve made to keep our country free.

Veteran’s Day was first made into a legal holiday on November 11, 1938 to honor the end of World War I – which occurred on November 11, 1918.  It was later expanded, in June 1954, to be a day to honor American veterans of all wars America had fought in, as well as peacetime.  Today it remains a special day that is set aside to remind all of us of the service and sacrifice made by those who have guarded and continue to guard our democracy and freedom.

When thinking of themes or ideas for Veteran’s Day cards – one can envision the symbols of our freedom such as the Statue of Liberty, our American flag with its stars and stripes, colorful parades that celebrate these brave men and women across our country on this special day and the wreath that is laid on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery during the Veteran’s Day ceremony each year.  Some of the ideas celebrated by this holiday are hard to depict – because they are higher values which can be hard to draw or communicate – concepts such as:  freedom, sacrifice, honor, democracy and service to one’s country.

My granddaughter’s elementary school puts on a special Veteran’s Day musical show for their families and all Veterans who live near the school or who are related to the children performing in the show.  The Veterans wear their armed forces uniforms to the show so the children can see the pride these people have taken in service to their country.  The children sing songs such as “America the Beautiful”, “This Is My Country”, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and “Yankee Doodle” – songs we all remember from our childhood.  In all of these songs, which we all know, lie the lyrics and ideas about:  America, freedom, and love of one’s country – the very things we hope to depict on our Veteran’s Day cards.  The children spend two months learning and practicing these songs – singing them at home - in preparation for this important show they are a part of.  If they can spend this much time showing how important their country is to them – then we artists ought to be inspired to spend some of our time showing patriotism by using our talents to design cards for this important holiday.

In looking for additional symbols that would help represent this holiday I looked up the 5 divisions of the United States Armed Forces: the Army, the Marine Corps, the Navy, the Air Force and the Coast Guard.  In their pages are a myriad of visual images for each branch.  Their pages have everything from uniforms, to military decorations, to service medals, to achievement ribbons to modes of transportation each branch uses.  All of these images are starting points for inspiration and ideas, vivid colors, shapes, and symbols which can be used alone or together as a background on which to say “thank you – we appreciate you – you have kept our way of life safe.”

Take a look at our great examples of Veterans Day Cards for inspiration?    



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