WASHINGTON, DC — Celebrate the joyous Jewish holiday of Hanukkah with a new stamp from the U.S. Postal Service. Also called the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah is a family-centered celebration that includes the ceremonial lighting of the hanukiah, the nine-branched menorah used during the holiday.
“This new Hanukkah stamp illustrates the lighting of the hanukiahon the last evening of the holiday,” said USPS Controller and Vice President Cara Greene. “All eight of the Hanukkah candles have been lit, and the child is reaching up to replace the shamash, the helper candle used to light the others in the menorah.”
The stamps are available nationwide today. A virtual dedication ceremony will be posted on the Postal Service’s Facebook and Twitter pages. The event includes remarks from Greene, Rabbi Lennard Thal and stamp artist Jing Jing Tsong.
Tsong chose her colors intentionally to evoke Hanukkah traditions as seen through the eyes of children. The darker blue colors in the background symbolize winter, while the brightly colored flaming candles reflect the spirit and warmth of sharing the holiday traditions.
The story of Hanukkah — “dedication” in Hebrew — tells of reclaiming the Temple in Jerusalem, which had been desecrated by a conquering army. Worshippers prepared to rededicate the holy space but discovered that only one small jar of consecrated oil remained, enough to last one day. Rather than wait for more oil to arrive, they lit the Temple menorah, which burned for eight days.
This miracle of the oil is celebrated during Hanukkah with the ceremonial lighting of the hanukiah. Celebrants recite blessings each night, one before and one during the lighting. A third blessing, known as the Shehecheyanu, is recited or sung only on the first night of the festival just as it is on other special family occasions. The candle for the first night is put on the far-right side of the hanukiah. On each subsequent night, an additional candle is placed to the immediate left of the previous night’s candle — right to left, the direction in which Hebrew is read. The candles are then lit from left to right, beginning with the newest candle. Some families take this opportunity to explain more about their heritage and the symbolism behind the ritual.
After the lighting of the candles, celebrants might play games, host a sing-along of favorite Hanukkah tunes, or prepare and eat fried foods traditionally consumed during the holiday.
In 2020, Hanukkah begins on the evening of Dec. 10.
Art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamp with original art by Tsong.