By Jesse Robitaille
Canada Post has issued its fourth Hanukkah stamp in five years.
Available online and in select post offices starting today, this year’s 28-millimetre-by-35-millimetre stamp features a colourful Hanukkah menorah, the special eight-branched candelabrum also known as a hanukkiyah, which is central to the eight-day Jewish “Festival of Lights.”
While each of the past Hanukkah stamps features different stylized representations of the hanukkiyah, the 2021 issue depicts the candelabrum lit with coloured candles—a first for the series.
“While the candle holder used at Chanukah (another name for Hanukkah) is universally called a menorah, it is actually a hanukkiyah, a candelabrum with eight candleholders in a row and a ninth set a little above the others,” Gary Cristall, a Vancouver-based musical artist manager and co-founder of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, wrote for the Canadian Encyclopedia. “This last holder holds the shamash, which is used to light the other candles. A menorah used in the temple has seven branches.”
According to the My Jewish Learning blog, Hanukkah candles can be any colour, but some people prefer to buy coloured ones “for aesthetic appeal.” Some celebrants also use blue and white candles, which represent Israel.
The practice of kindling a hanukkiyah commemorates the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem – Judaism’s holiest site – following the victory of the rebel Maccabees more than 2,000 years ago. As the story goes, the menorah in the rededicated temple burned for eight consecutive days despite only holding one day’s worth of oil.
The modern celebration has taken place in Canada since 1760, when the first Jews were allowed to immigrate, according to Cristall. Celebrants use the shamash flame to kindle one light on the hanukkiyah each evening for eight days. The small oil or wax candles are lit after sunset, typically by different members of the household, and they are allowed to completely burn before being replaced the next day. Often placed in windows after being lit, the hanukkiyot – the plural form of hanukkiyah – are sometimes handed down through generations or crafted by schoolchildren.
A joyful celebration, Hanukkah means “dedication” in Hebrew. This year’s festival takes place from nightfall on Nov. 28 until nightfall on Dec. 6.
“For the Jewish community, it is an illuminating celebration of hope, resilience and faith in brighter days to come,” according to a statement issued by Canada Post.
Design partners Joseph Gault and Avi Dunkelman produced the Hanukkah stamp’s design.
Lowe-Martin printed the issue in 80,000 booklets of 10 stamps – eight million stamps altogether – using five-colour lithography and Tullis Russell paper. The Ottawa-based security printer also produced 4,500 official first-day covers (OFDCs) measuring 190 millimetres by 112 millimetres.
The front of the OFDCs features an enlargement of the hanukkiyah depicted on the stamp. The stamp on the cover is also tied by a Toronto pictorial cancellation with a three-flame line drawing alluding to a menorah’s burning candles.
Canada Post is also offering a special Hanukkah postmark as part of its pictorial cancel series.
Collectors seeking this philatelic souvenir can send stamped self-addressed envelopes to:
Postmaster /Maître de Poste
210 Rue St. Joseph E.,
Canada G0N 1E0.
Canadian postage is required, and there is a fee of $1.30 for delivery in the United States and $2.70 for international destinations.
FIRST ISSUE RECALLED
Canada Post previously issued Hanukkah stamps in 2017, 2019 and 2020.
A day after being unveiled in Toronto, and just one day before it was slated to go on sale across the country, the first Hanukkah issue was removed from display and returned to Canada Post headquarters because of what the Crown corporation called “a design issue” with the stamp booklet and OFDC.
“We don’t typically get into details but can confirm that the cover design was changed from the lone image of the lit shamash to the partial menorah to better reflect the celebration of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, which is the subject of the stamp,” Canada Post media relations manager Phil Legault told CSN in 2017, adding there were “no issues with the text or any misspelling.”
“This stamp will be on sale for the next three years, so it was important.”
The reprinted version of the booklets and OFDC were available online by Nov. 20, 2017.
Despite being recalled from all post offices across the country, some of the original 2017 Hanukkah booklets and OFDCs were mistakenly sold at post offices before finding their way to the collector market. A recalled OFDC listed in November 2017 by eBay vendor “2014ramne” was offered for $500 while another example listed by vendor “zmlbil-lcdnl6sh” asked $350. That month, a lot of five recalled booklets were also listed by vendor “yabluko7” for $250.
Some recalled booklets remain available on eBay, HipStamp and several dealer websites this November. Most of them are now offered for about $30-$50.