Paper Cutting

Hanukkah is celebrated on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev. Known as the Festival of Lights, it commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple at the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt against the Greeks in the 2nd century. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and eight days. Each night the Hanukkiah, a nine-branch menorah, is lit and blessings are sung. Hanukkah is celebrated by singing songs, eating latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (doughnuts), and playing games with a dreydl (spinning top).

Paper cutting is one of few Jewish visual arts that has a long history. In Jewish tradition, creating idols or life-like beings was not allowed, and paper cutting lent itself to permitted abstract imagery. Paper cutting was also inexpensive and easily picked up and moved if a community felt threatened. It became popular throughout European and North African Jewish communities as early as the 17th century. Holidays and important life events would be commemorated with paper-cut art. Many homes were, and still are, decorated with prayers, marriage contracts, and memorials that feature the art of paper cutting.

The Hanukkah stamp pictured above was inspired by the art of Jewish paper cutting. Artist Jeanette Kuvin Oren hand-dyed silk fabric to create bright colors and then appliquéd and quilted the fabrics. Black fabric was then cut and attached to create the finished quilted wall hanging.

Paper cutting is usually done with a sharp knife, but it can also be made with scissors like scherenschnitte, a German form of paper cutting.

Artwork and instructions courtesy of Jeanette Kuvin Oren.


paper cut-out of Hanukkiah on blue card, propped on top of white envelope with Hanukkah stamp

You will need:

  • a white pencil
  • scissors
  • a glue stick
  • black origami or thin black paper cut to 4.5 x 6 inches
  • several pieces of silver and gold origami paper (at least 4.5 x 6 inches)
  • 6-by-9-inch blue or white card stock paper
  • Hanukkah postage stamp
  • A4 envelope


Step 1

blue and silver cardstock laid on top of table with gluestick, white pencil, scissors, and menorah template
Let’s get ready! If you have an MFA art kit, place all the materials on a table. If you don’t have an MFA art kit, cut a 6-by-9-inch piece of white or blue card stock, then fold it in half so it’s 6 by 4.5 inches. Then cut a thinner piece of black paper to 4.5 by 6 inches.

Step 2

using white pencil to draw two horizontal lines about a third from the top of the black paper
Fold the black paper in half vertically and place it on the table with the folded edge on the right. Use the white pencil and the straight edge of a ruler or the edge of the folded card stock to draw two horizontal lines across the card about a third of the way from the top.

Step 3

using white pencil to draw left half of the Hanukkiah on the black paper
Use the outlines in the Hanukkah stamp pictured at the top of the page as inspiration. Create the base of the Hanukkiah, or menorah, by drawing a quarter circle starting at the left edge of the bottom white line and ending at the right edge of the paper, at the fold near the bottom. Below that, create the base of the Hanukkiah. Add more curved lines on top of the base to create four candle holders and half of one on the right. Next, add some flames! Draw half of the center flame next to the folded side of the paper. The center flame is the tallest because it is the shamash, or helper candle. Then draw 4 flames above the candle holders to the left of the shamash. Don’t worry if your flames are not all the same size. Flames are never identical!

Step 4

using scissors to cut out the Hanukkiah based on the drawn lines on the black paper
Use your scissors to cut out the Hanukkiah, but be careful to leave the candle holders and the flames attached. Remove the center of the flames by cutting into the top of each one. Don’t worry, you won’t see the cut at the top when you are finished. If you accidentally cut the design apart it can be glued back together later.

Step 5

tracing the outline of the Hanukkiah onto the silver paper using white pencil
Unfold the black paper and place the side with the white pencil marks face down on top of the silver paper. The top of the candle holder should line up with the top of the metallic paper, and the flames should be above it. Trace around the outside of the Hanukkiah shape with the white pencil. Remove the black paper, then use your scissors to cut the shape out of the silver paper so that it fits behind the candleholders.

Step 6

using gluestick to apply glue to the back of the black cut-out Hanukkiah
Flip the black paper over so that the white pencil marks show. Apply glue to this side of the paper then press it onto the silver paper.

Step 7

using scissors to cut small flame-shaped pieces from the gold paper
Cut small pieces of gold or yellow paper and glue them onto the back of the flames (the side of the black paper with white pencil on it).

Step 8

paper cut-out of Hanukkiah on blue card, propped on top of white envelope with Hanukkah stamp
Glue your completed Hanukkiah to the front of your 6-by-4.5-inch blue or white folded card. Write a note inside to a friend or family member and mail it with a Hanukkah stamp!

Bonus Step

elaborate paper cut-out of Hanukkiah based on 2022 USPS Hanukkah stamp design

For even more fun, download this free coloring sheet to make Hanukkah postcards and color it in using your imagination.

Want to try paper cutting with an X-Acto knife? Download this free design by Jeanette and watch the short instructional video “How to do Papercutting in 5 steps.”

About the Artist

Artist Jeanette Kuvin Oren holding up first day issue of USPS's 2022 Hanukkah stamp

A graduate of Princeton and Yale Universities, Jeanette Kuvin Oren completed a master’s degree in public health and most of her PhD in epidemiology before devoting herself full time to commissioned art and graphic design. Since 1984 Jeanette has created installation pieces for more than 400 houses of worship, schools, community centers, and camps around the world. She specializes in large installations of glass, mosaic, metal, fiber art, calligraphy, paper cutting, and painting. Jeanette makes Torah covers, ark curtains, donor recognition art, huppot, ketubot, wall hangings, and many other items for homes and institutions. Jeanette designed the 2022 United States Postal Service Hanukkah Stamp.