In the immortal words of Adam Sandler: “Put on your yamake, it’s time to celebrate Hanukkah!” That’s right folks, here it is: the eight day celebration that lights up the lives of the entire Jewish community worldwide, and Card Gnome’s selection of Hanukkah cards are perfect for all. Hanukkah is considered by some to be the most important of Jewish holidays; of course, those who consider it to be so are often kids looking forward to the holiday where they get the most presents. But that doesn’t mean that Hanukkah doesn’t have a special place in the hearts of all who observe it. It’s considered to be both a public and private celebration, a “lighting within” and a “lighting without”. But be sure not to start your lighting without sending Hanukkah cards to all those who have made your life a bit brighter. A Hanukkah card or greeting is always a great way to let them know you’re thinking of them, and that no matter how much hot wax gets on your hands, you’ll be sure to light a candle in their honor.
Hanukkah’s origins trace back to the conquest of Israel by Antiochus IV of Syria, who immediately outlawed Judaism and ordered the holy Second Temple to be dedicated to Zeus and for there to be sacrifices of pigs near the temple – since we all know how much Zeus loves bacon. Outraged at this violation of Kosher practices, the entire Jewish population rose up and was able to successfully overthrow their captors. They retook the temple and declared that a celebration be held, but they only had enough oil for one night. Nonetheless, they lit the ceremonial menorah anyway, and miraculously it stayed lit for eight more days. This is considered by many to be a miracle, and perhaps the inspiration for the invention of the energy saving light bulb. As a result of this event, Hanukkah is now celebrated with an eight-branched menorah, a candle holder in which a new candle is lit each night. There are other Hanukkah traditions as well, including special songs, foods, and sending Hanukkah cards. For children, Hanukkah celebrations often include spinning the dreidel and receiving gifts of gelt or small coins, though unfortunately they don’t get the same number of campy-but-entertaining TV shows that kids get for Christmas. However, in response to Hanukkah’s neighboring mega-holiday, many Jewish people in the west have made Hanukkah into a major gift giving holiday, especially since it’s hard to keep the kids quiet for eight days with just a dreidel. But don’t leave the rest of your family out, send a message or Hanukkah card to help spread the greetings – because not even the most miraculous lamp oil in the world can last as long as your friendship.
Here it comes: the big daddy of holidays, the jingle bell juggernaut, the elf-crafted extravaganza. Can we get a drumroll from those ten drummers drumming? It’s Christmas! Christmas reigns supreme in the holiday world; it’s not merely a holiday but its own genre of movies and music, its own flavor of cookies, really its own little universe which emerges the very second Thanksgiving is over. The volume of Christmas icons is nothing short of astounding; from reindeer to Red Rider bee-bee guns, snowmen to Jimmy Stewart movies, Charles Dickens to Charlie Brown, there’s a veritable army of season’s greeters armed to the teeth with mistletoe and eggnog. But even outside of the official Christmas canon of spokespeople, there’s a mountain of merriment generated simply by everyday people. Christmas parties, Christmas-specific decorations, carols, Christmas cards, poems for Christmas, and of course Christmas recipes are all part of the mix. And while Christmas has its roots in Christianity, it is celebrated by both the most dedicated believers and people outside the religion who nonetheless feel the need for a few tidings of comfort and joy. And while we all enjoy the latest round of Christmas songs and TV shows that come out every year, it’s always important to remember your friends with well thought out Christmas cards.
Christmas has a rich and well-studied two thousand year history. It is ostensibly the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the hero of Christian beliefs who naturally should be entitled to his own holiday. But there’s a catch: some modern historians have challenged the idea that Jesus was actually born on December 25, and that instead the day was chosen to coincide with the Roman solstice festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti. As their theory goes, Christmas gained popularity and eventually replaced the Roman celebration, since after all Dies Natalis Solis Invicti is a much harder name to remember. But the position of most theologians today is that no matter what day Jesus was born on, the holiday of Christmas exists to honor that birth. As the holiday progressed, modern traditions began to emerge. The holiday was celebrated as a feast in the Middle Ages, and despite attempts to thwart its celebration by Puritan rule in England, the holiday reemerged in the 17th century. It was during this time that the character of “Father Christmas” emerged, who would go on to influence the American “Santa Claus”, though for whatever reason the Americans decided to give him a name which was a strange mixture of Spanish and Dutch. The tradition of giving gifts, already popular before but suppressed by the Puritans, exploded in popularity afterward.
One of the more important traditions during Christmas time is the sending of Christmas cards. The tradition is a bit newer than some of the other Christmas customs, since after all the Roman Empire didn’t have a very good postal service. It began in the 1840s with the first industrially printed cards in honor of Christmas. The trend took off and spread to the United States in 1875, where the cards have been popular ever since. Christmas cards are commonly viewed as a way to keep in touch with friends far and wide. For families, Christmas cards often turn out as a detailed summary of the events of the year, sometimes even coming with an index and footnotes. But there are Christmas cards of every shape and size, with enough variety to fit every yuletide character. For the goofball, there are any number of funny Christmas cards with cheesy tag lines; for example: How many reindeer does it take to screw in a light bulb? Doesn’t matter, they use their noses for light! For the upstanding professional, there are business Christmas cards, which can be especially important if you accidentally drink a bit too much eggnog at the company Christmas party. For those who don’t know what to write in Christmas Cards, some come elegantly decorated but with blank inside. There are also patriotic Christmas cards, religious or specifically Christian Christmas cards, and cards with customized photos for Christmas. But no matter what kind of card you send, don’t forget how important it is to let loose with a little holiday cheer every year. Hey, if Santa can visit every house in the world, it shouldn’t be any trouble for you to send a few cards to your best friends and family.
It’s new to the Holiday Season lineup, but don’t let that trick you into thinking it doesn’t have any history. That’s right, we’re talking Kwanzaa! Kwanzaa was officially created as a holiday by Maulana Karenga in 1968 to celebrate the history and culture of all people of African ancestry, but particularly African Americans - so the celebration is as much dubstep as it is djembe. The celebration begins December 26 and lasts seven days, enough time to sing songs, get together with friends, give gifts, send Kwanzaa cards, and find the right size dashiki for the final day of celebration. So don’t forget to take a little time to send Kwanzaa cards or greetings to your friends and family; whether it be your heritage or your family, Kwanzaa is all about keeping in touch.
Kwanzaa was founded by Karenga in order to “give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history,” and possibly because the food served for the other holidays was a bit too bland. Creating a uniquely African American holiday in the 1960s was in keeping with the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement which still coming to pass during that era, and it was also a fulfillment of the idea of Pan-Africanism. The celebration itself centers on the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, with each day being dedicated to a different principle. The principles are: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, collaborative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith – though the theme of kicking back for a good celebration runs throughout. The celebration concludes with a karamu or celebratory feast. Don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate your heritage this Kwanzaa, but also keep in mind to send a card to your family for Kwanzaa. There’s no better way to send a traditional greeting of “Habari Gani” than a good Kwanzaa card, and they’ll enjoy their karamu more if they know you’re thinking of them.
Get your streamers and pointy hats ready, and be prepared to look up the atomic clock for the first time since last year. It’s New Year’s Eve! New Year’s Eve is that one day every year when we celebrate only having one day left in that year, usually by resolving to try for that big breakthrough next year, but not before first breaking out a bottle of bubbly. For the adult crowd, New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest party nights of the year, with posh New Year’s events filling the clubs in New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, and other major cities in the US and around the world. But for those more inclined to pop open a Martinellis than a Mums, there are plenty of family friendly traditions for New Years Eve as well. Some families prepare special New Year’s Eve recipes, and observe other customs for luck in the coming year. And for those who can’t make it to family gatherings, it’s traditional to send a New Year card or greeting for the holiday. For the truly generous, you can send the New Year card along with a bottle of champagne – just make sure it doesn’t get too shaken up during the delivery.
In a way, New Year’s Eve is the oldest of all holidays, since there have been new years since the creation of the planet. But even the celebration of the New Year is something that people have been doing ever since the concept of years was developed, though ancient societies had a lot more difficulty replacing their calendars each year since they were made of stone. Can you imagine trying to send a New Years card of stone? The timing of New Year’s Eve became standardized after the development of the modern calendar, and traditions for how to celebrate this event began to form around the world. In the US, the New Year is celebrated by the lowering of a giant glowing ball and the customary confusion as to how the heck Dick Clark manages to do a TV broadcast of this every year. But it is certainly a time to remember friends and family as well; poems, cards, and greetings abound. So as you’re watching the ball drop, don’t forget to also drop off a New Years card for your friends and family – in return, they’ll be sure to keep you in their resolutions.
Festivus is a secular holiday celebrated on December 23, and celebrating it with a Festivus card is a great way to laugh this holiday. The holiday was created by writer Dan O'Keefe and introduced into popular culture by his son Daniel, a screenwriter for the TV show Seinfeld, as part of a comical storyline on the show. The holiday's celebration, as shown on Seinfeld, includes an unadorned aluminum "Festivus pole," practices such as the "Airing of Grievances" and "Feats of Strength," and the labelling of easily explainable events as "Festivus miracles". Sending festivus cards to those Seinfeld fans in your life is a surefire way to loosen up and forget the holiday stress.
Celebrants of the holiday sometimes refer to it as "Festivus for the rest of us," a saying taken from the O'Keefe family traditions and popularized in the Seinfeld episode to describe Festivus as "another way" to celebrate the holiday season without participating in its pressures and commercialism.
The name "Festivus" has also begun to be used as a general term for any type of December party not affiliated with the season's other events. So toss out the yamaka, forget the christmas tree, setup a pole, and start off this season by sending out a few funny festivus cards.