Christmas stamp

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This Canadian stamp's Christmas connection is in the "XMAS 1898" at the bottom of the map. Timbre penny post Canada 1898.jpg
This Canadian stamp's Christmas connection is in the "XMAS 1898" at the bottom of the map.

A Christmas stamp is a postage stamp with a Christmas theme, intended for use on seasonal mail such as Christmas cards. Many countries of the world issue such stamps, which are regular postage stamps (in contrast to Christmas seals) and are usually valid for postage year-round (in some countries they have a discounted value and are for use exclusively on Christmas cards). They usually go on sale some time between early October and early December, and are printed in considerable quantities.

Postage stamp small piece of paper that is purchased and displayed on an item of mail as evidence of payment of postage

A postage stamp is a small piece of paper issued by a post office, postal administration, or other authorized vendors to customers who pay postage, who then affix the stamp to the face or address-side of any item of mail—an envelope or other postal cover —that they wish to send. The item is then processed by the postal system, where a postmark or cancellation mark—in modern usage indicating date and point of origin of mailing—is applied to the stamp and its left and right sides to prevent its reuse. The item is then delivered to its addressee.

Christmas holiday originating in Christianity, usually celebrated on December 25 (in the Gregorian or Julian calendars)

Christmas is an annual festival, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it is preceded by the season of Advent or the Nativity Fast and initiates the season of Christmastide, which historically in the West lasts twelve days and culminates on Twelfth Night; in some traditions, Christmastide includes an octave. Christmas Day is a public holiday in many of the world's nations, is celebrated religiously by a majority of Christians, as well as culturally by many non-Christians, and forms an integral part of the holiday season centered around it.

Christmas card

A Christmas card is a greeting card sent as part of the traditional celebration of Christmas in order to convey between people a range of sentiments related to Christmastide and the holiday season. Christmas cards are usually exchanged during the weeks preceding Christmas Day by many people in Western society and in Asia. The traditional greeting reads "wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year". There are innumerable variations on this greeting, many cards expressing more religious sentiment, or containing a poem, prayer, Christmas song lyrics or Biblical verse; others focus on the general holiday season with an all-inclusive "Season's greetings".

Contents

History

It is a matter of some debate as to which is the first Christmas stamp. The Canadian map stamp of 1898 bears an inscription "XMAS 1898", but it was actually issued to mark the inauguration of the Imperial Penny Postage rate. The Christmas connection has long been reported to have been the result of quick thinking; William Mulock was proposing that it be issued on 9 November, to "honor the Prince" (meaning the Prince of Wales), but when Queen Victoria asked "what Prince?" in a displeased manner, Mulock realized the danger, and answered "Why, madam, the Prince of Peace." [1]

Canada Country in North America

Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres, making it the world's second-largest country by total area. Canada's southern border with the United States is the world's longest bi-national land border. Its capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. As a whole, Canada is sparsely populated, the majority of its land area being dominated by forest and tundra. Consequently, its population is highly urbanized, with over 80 percent of its inhabitants concentrated in large and medium-sized cities, many near the southern border. Canada's climate varies widely across its vast area, ranging from arctic weather in the north, to hot summers in the southern regions, with four distinct seasons.

William Mulock Canadian politician, judge, academic administrator

Sir William Mulock, was a Canadian lawyer, businessman, educator, farmer, politician, judge, and philanthropist.

Prince of Wales title granted to princes born in Wales

Prince of Wales was a title granted to princes born in Wales from the 12th century onwards; the term replaced the use of the word king. One of the last Welsh princes, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, was killed in battle in 1282 by Edward I, King of England, whose son Edward was invested as the first English Prince of Wales in 1301.

British Troops in Egypt Christmas stamp, 1935 British Troops in Egypt, Christmas stamp 1935.jpg
British Troops in Egypt Christmas stamp, 1935

In 1935, British Forces troops stationed in Egypt were issued with a Christmas stamp for their mail home. For many years these were not included in the Stanley Gibbons catalogues, as they classified them as a “seal” rather than a postage stamp, but they have been properly included since the mid-1960s as they prepaid postage and so, despite the inscription "Letter stamp", are normal stamps, and should therefore be counted as the first stamp issued expressly to mark Christmas. Like the slightly earlier Silver Jubilee overprints on the “sphinx” stamp, the Christmas stamps were issued in booklet form in panes of 20. [2]

British Armed Forces combined military forces of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The British Armed Forces, also known as Her Majesty's Armed Forces, are the military services responsible for the defence of the United Kingdom, its overseas territories and the Crown dependencies. They also promote Britain's wider interests, support international peacekeeping efforts and provide humanitarian aid.

Hungarian nativity stamp, 1943 Stamp HU 1943 20f Xmas.jpg
Hungarian nativity stamp, 1943

In 1937, Austria issued two "Christmas greeting stamps" featuring a rose and zodiac signs. In 1939, Brazil issued four semi-postal stamps with designs featuring the three kings and a star, an angel and child, the Southern Cross and a child, and a mother and child. In 1941 Hungary also issued a semi-postal whose additional fees were to pay for "soldiers' Christmas". The first stamps to depict the Nativity were the Hungary issue of 1943. These were all one-time issues, more like commemorative stamps than regular issues.

Austria Federal republic in Central Europe

Austria, officially the Republic of Austria, is a country in Central Europe comprising 9 federated states. Its capital, largest city and one of nine states is Vienna. Austria has an area of 83,879 km2 (32,386 sq mi), a population of nearly 9 million people and a nominal GDP of $477 billion. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The terrain is highly mountainous, lying within the Alps; only 32% of the country is below 500 m (1,640 ft), and its highest point is 3,798 m (12,461 ft). The majority of the population speaks local Bavarian dialects as their native language, and German in its standard form is the country's official language. Other regional languages are Hungarian, Burgenland Croatian, and Slovene.

Rose genus of plants

A rose is a woody perennial flowering plant of the genus Rosa, in the family Rosaceae, or the flower it bears. There are over three hundred species and thousands of cultivars. They form a group of plants that can be erect shrubs, climbing, or trailing, with stems that are often armed with sharp prickles. Flowers vary in size and shape and are usually large and showy, in colours ranging from white through yellows and reds. Most species are native to Asia, with smaller numbers native to Europe, North America, and northwestern Africa. Species, cultivars and hybrids are all widely grown for their beauty and often are fragrant. Roses have acquired cultural significance in many societies. Rose plants range in size from compact, miniature roses, to climbers that can reach seven meters in height. Different species hybridize easily, and this has been used in the development of the wide range of garden roses.

Zodiac celestial circle of twelve divisions centered upon the ecliptic

The zodiac is an area of the sky that extends approximately 8° north or south of the ecliptic, the apparent path of the Sun across the celestial sphere over the course of the year. The paths of the Moon and visible planets are also within the belt of the zodiac.

First Christmas stamp of Australia, 1957 Stamp AU 1957 4p Xmas.jpg
First Christmas stamp of Australia, 1957

The next Christmas stamps did not appear until 1951, when Cuba issued designs with poinsettias and bells, followed by Haiti (1954), Luxembourg and Spain (1955), then Australia, Korea, and Liechtenstein (1957). In cases such as Australia, the issuance marked the first of what became an annual tradition. Many more nations took up the practice during the 1960s, including the United States (1962) and United Kingdom (1966).

Cuba Country in the Caribbean

Cuba, officially the Republic of Cuba, is a country comprising the island of Cuba as well as Isla de la Juventud and several minor archipelagos. Cuba is located in the northern Caribbean where the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean meet. It is east of the Yucatán Peninsula (Mexico), south of both the U.S. state of Florida and the Bahamas, west of Haiti and north of both Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Havana is the largest city and capital; other major cities include Santiago de Cuba and Camagüey. The area of the Republic of Cuba is 110,860 square kilometres (42,800 sq mi). The island of Cuba is the largest island in Cuba and in the Caribbean, with an area of 105,006 square kilometres (40,543 sq mi), and the second-most populous after Hispaniola, with over 11 million inhabitants.

Poinsettia species of plant, Poinsettia

The poinsettia is a commercially important plant species of the diverse spurge family (Euphorbiaceae). The species is indigenous to Mexico. It is particularly well known for its red and green foliage and is widely used in Christmas floral displays. It derives its common English name from Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico, who introduced the plant to the US in 1825.

Haiti country in the Caribbean

Haiti, officially the Republic of Haiti and formerly called Hayti, is a country located on the island of Hispaniola, east of Cuba in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean Sea. It occupies the western three-eighths of the island, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Haiti is 27,750 square kilometres (10,714 sq mi) in size and has an estimated 10.8 million people, making it the most populous country in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the second-most populous country in the Caribbean as a whole.

By the 1990s, approximately 160 postal administrations were issuing Christmas stamps, mostly on an annual basis. Islamic countries constitute the largest group of non-participants, although the Palestinian Authority has issued Christmas stamps since 1995.

Designs

Peru's 1970 stamps reproduced paintings by anonymous Peruvian artists. Stamp Peru 1970 1.20s Xmas.jpg
Peru's 1970 stamps reproduced paintings by anonymous Peruvian artists.

Although some tropical islands produce large-format Christmas stamps primarily intended for sale to stamp collectors, for the rest of the world, Christmas stamps are "working stamps" that will be used in large numbers to send greeting cards and postcards. Accordingly, the stamps tend to be normal-sized, and offered in one or a few denominations, for instance to cover differing domestic and international rates.

The choice of designs is highly variable, ranging from an overtly religious image of the Nativity, to secular images of Christmas trees, wreaths, Santa Claus, and so forth. [3] A country may maintain a unified theme for several years, then change it drastically, in some cases seemingly to follow "fashion moves" by other countries. For instance, during the 1970s many countries issued Christmas stamps featuring children's drawings, with the young artist identified by name and age.

The choice of secular or religious designs is frequently a bone of contention in some countries; church leaders often see secular designs as diluting the meaning of the holiday, while postal officials fear that overly religious designs could lead their secular or minority-religious customers to avoid the stamps, leaving millions unsold, and even expose the postal administration to charges that they are violating laws prohibiting the promotion of a particular religion.

In the United States, annual discord over "secular" versus "religious" designs was eventually resolved by the Postal Service issuing some of each per year; typically a group of 4-6 related secular designs, plus a religious design (usually depicting the Madonna and Child). To avoid difficulties attendant upon contracting for original designs with a religious theme, the latter have typically been adapted from Old Master paintings hanging in U.S. galleries, thus qualifying as depictions of art. (In 2012, 2014, and 2016, however, religious-themed stamps were issued featuring original designs depicting the flight into Egypt, the journey of the Magi, and the Nativity of Jesus, respectively. [4] [5] [6] ) In the United Kingdom, the Royal Mail resolves the difficulty by issuing "religious" and "secular" themed designs in alternate years.

Usage

The usual usage of Christmas stamps is to quickly apply them to a stack of Christmas cards to go out. In the age of email, Christmas stamps may represent some individuals' largest remaining use of stamps in a year, and it is not unusual to see "leftovers" appear on regular mail during the first months of the new year. In Australia and the Netherlands, Christmas stamps are sold at a discount, but can be used after Christmas with additional stamps to make up the correct rate.

Collecting

Christmas is a popular theme for topical collecting. Because of the quantities printed, almost all Christmas stamps are easy to come by and of negligible cost. Collecting challenges would therefore be to get covers with apropos postal markings, such as a postmark on Christmas Day (not all post offices get the day off), or from a particular location (such as Christmas Island; Christmas, Florida; North Pole, Alaska; North Pole, New York; or Santa Claus, Indiana), or bearing a specific Christmas theme or slogan.

The Christmas Philatelic Club was formed in 1969 by Christmas stamp collectors and issues a quarterly journal, the Yule Log . A number of collectors treat Christmas collecting as a subcategory of religion on stamps.

Other holiday stamps

In Japan, there is a longstanding tradition of a New Years stamp. A number of Easter stamps have been issued, but these are clearly aimed at collectors.

The United States has occasionally issued stamps for other holidays, such as Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. During the 1990s, stamps for Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Eid, and Chinese New Year have become a regular part of the holiday program, although the designs tend to be used for several years, distinguishable only by a different denomination or year date.

Valentine's Day stamps are a more recent tradition in some countries.

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References

  1. Michael O. Nowlan (1999-07-14). "Michael O. Nowlan, "How The First Christmas Stamp Came To Be"". Professional Stamp Experts. Archived from the original on 2015-12-22. Retrieved 2015-08-06.
  2. http://www.gbos.org.uk/index.php/Country_List/13 www.gbos.org.uk
  3. Correspondent, Jonathan Petre, Religion (12 July 2004). "Secular Christmas stamps attacked" via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  4. "U.S. Postal Service Issues Holy Family Forever Stamp". USPS. 2012-10-10. Retrieved 2015-08-06.
  5. "Stamp Announcement 14-48: Christmas Magi Stamp". USPS. 2014-10-16. Retrieved 2015-08-06.
  6. "Stamp Announcement 16-42: Nativity Stamp". USPS. 2016-09-29. Retrieved 2016-11-15.

Further reading