Celebrations like Christmas and Hanukkah combine family events like holiday decorating and gift giving, and both can become handmade traditions.

Whether you're looking for clever gifts to make for your friends or for a special way to decorate your home, you can't go wrong with candles. I read that candles are the most popular gift of the holiday season, and no wonder: They're inexpensive, they make your house smell great and they are easy to personalize with everything from stickers to photographs.

The goal is to enjoy the glow of the burning candle, but leave the decorated surface intact, and I have come up with three different ways to approach it.

— If you favor the glow from a real candle, it's important to burn it long enough to create a hole in the center that will hold a tea light. Whenever you want to burn the candle you are really burning the tea light, so the candle decor will remain intact. As the tea light burns down, simply replace it with a new one.

— Another option is to place the candle inside a glass hurricane and decorate the glass instead of the candle.

— A third possibility is to replace the real candle with a flameless candle that is battery-operated. I found faux candles at big-box stores, craft stores and on the TV shopping channels, and all were made of real wax and scented with vanilla. In short, they looked and smelled just like a real candle but without the safety concerns of the candle flame or the problem of burning down to nothing and ruining the embellishments. I was surprised to see that the faux flame even flickered like a real candle.

Once you make your selection — real, faux or glass — it's time to consider the embellishments. There are several choices, and I prefer to mix them together, creating a grouping that includes candles decorated with photos, sheet music, patterned paper, jingle bells, ribbon and rhinestone stickers.

Rhinestone stickers look great on a flickering candle and are easy to apply. The entire design pulls off the backing sheet in one piece, making it easy to fasten to the candle. Once attached, it's helpful to roll the decorated candle on its side to ensure a good bond.

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A candle, embellished with a photo, is wonderfully personal and good-looking. Make a copy of the photo on a copy machine or printer and adjust the size to fit the candle. I like to enlarge a photo enough to completely cover the candle with two images. It's difficult to see the flame (real or faux) through the thickness of photo paper, so copy paper or vellum are better choices. Adhere the photocopy to the candle with spray adhesive or run it through an Xyron machine to apply the adhesive in order to fasten it to the candle.

Patterned paper or sheet music are applied to the candle in the same way and can be further embellished with ribbon and jingle bells.

A grouping of customized candles looks great on a fireplace mantle or down the center of a dining table. They are sure to be saved and enjoyed every holiday season.

Contact Sandi Genovese and find free video demonstrations of more photo projects at www.scrapbookshowgram.com.