Hark! The herald angels sing:
“We have found our Holiday Wrapping Paper Contest winner, and its theme is . . . peace on Earth.”
Well, perhaps there wasn’t divine intervention when Washington Post readers chose 7-year-old Shivani Nelson’s wrapping paper from an online gallery of 12 finalists, but her dove-and-globe design did have judges humming the familiar carol.
Shivani, a first-grader at Beauvoir school in Northwest, entered the contest for the first time this year. The judges had an easy time selecting the young Washingtonian’s entry as a finalist from more than 600 submissions.
Shivani’s bold red background, detailed globes and gold accents distinguished it from other dove-patterned entries. It was also clear to the judges that Shivani spent a lot of time working on her wrap, something she confirmed when contacted with the good news.
“The hardest part was making the Earths. I colored them three times,” Shivani said, adding that she also practiced drawing the doves “like 10 times.” (Her mother says it was more like 50.)
“A lot of these kids took this very seriously,” said guest judge Tim Tate, an artist and co-founder and the creative director of the Washington Glass School. “This was not their first drawing, and it shows beautifully.”
One such entry was created by Caitlyn Ling, 12, of Centreville. Caitlyn, a contest finalist four times, said she makes a point of sketching on another paper before committing to a design.
For her reindeer snowflakes, Caitlyn said she “like[s] doing surrealistic snowflakes and drawing animals, so I decided to combine the two.”
“Obviously she’s got mad skills,” Tate said after studying the finely detailed image.
Judges also weighed creativity. There were numerous snowmen, nutcrackers and gingerbread men, but the finalists executed those traditional holiday designs with a twist.
Ten-year-old finalist Michelle Miller of Northwest textured her snowmen with sponges and glitter, and the gingerbread men created by Linley Wooldridge, 9, of Silver Spring were partially eaten.
Sophie Mariam, 12, of McLean went with a tried-and-true holiday standby — the nutcracker.
“I once went to a nutcracker tea and all the tables had different nutcrackers on them, and it reminded me of that,” said Sophie, who has danced in many “Nutcrackers” herself.
As with every year, judges chose three finalists in four age groups: 6 and younger, 7- to 8-year-olds, 9- to 10-year-olds and 11- to 12-year-olds. This year the creativity from the youngest group was impressive.
Dev Kodre, 5, of South Riding created a dreamlike snowy landscape, and 5-year-old Nina Fernandez of Northwest used a distinctive brown-and-silver color scheme for her gingerbread house pattern.
Luciano Romano, 5, of Annapolis went with an aquatic theme because, he said, “I like things under the water.” His drawing was complete with a scuba Santa and creatures wrapped in lights.
Another thing judges kept in mind was versatility.
“We tried to get something that all ages could use,” Tate said, “from adults wrapping a bottle of wine to kids wrapping their first present.”
Tate said he could see a sophisticated adult using 10-year-old Akash Chatterjee’s ink illustration of bare trees. The Arlington boy said he enjoys trees — drawing them and climbing them. For a touch of holiday cheer, he added colored accents to some of the branches.
Another simple-but-stunning entry came from Aryan Rajput, 7, of Falls Church. The contest rules suggest making stamps out of potatoes, and Aryan took that idea one step further, creating a flower stamp from cut okra.
The last two finalists — Olivia Voelkel, 11, of Burke and Madeline Grace Vinal, 8, of Kensington — made the judges smile with their why-didn’t-we-think-of-that designs. Olivia went with a Hawaiian holiday theme complete with Santa in a hula skirt. And Madeline combined two of her favorite things: dogs and ice hockey.
So why, Madeline, aren’t the dogs holding ice hockey sticks? “Dogs don’t have hands,” she said matter-of-factly. Ho, ho, ho.