By Janet Klug
This time of year most people receive holiday mail brightened with a choice of secular and religious Christmas stamps. North America is the birthplace of the Christmas stamp. Canada's 2¢ Christmas stamp of 1898 picturing a map of the British Empire, Scott 85, is shown in Figure 1.
In some years, mailers in the United States, Canada and Mexico have inspired designs to choose from, but for the most part, the holiday stamps are more functional than they are beautiful.
Some of the most interesting Christmas stamps are those that depict holiday celebrations in far-flung places. Looking at them is a great way to learn about Christmas customs of other lands.
La Befana, the Christmas witch, is a tradition in Italy. Usually depicted as an aged woman, she visits all the children of Italy on the night of Jan. 5.
The next morning, on the Feast of the Epiphany, children who have been good awake to find that she has left sweet, curly candy for them. Children who were bad awaken to a lump of coal.
La Befana is depicted on Canada's 48¢ 1992 Christmas stamp, Scott 1453, shown in Figure 2.
The Pitcairn Islands 1979 souvenir sheet, Scott 191a, pictured in Figure 3 shows a compilation of several island children's renditions of how Christmas is celebrated in Pitcairn.
The 6¢ value shows Christmas presents being brought to the village square. The gifts are hung on Christmas trees (shown on the 9¢ stamp). The 20¢ stamp shows how the present-decorated trees are admired throughout the day and then at sunset the gifts are taken down and distributed. The 35¢ stamp shows the island residents returning home with their gifts.
This celebration of the holiday season involves the entire population of Pitcairn, an easy enough feat to accomplish, because the total population today is fewer than 50.
Another village scene unfolds at the opposite end of the earth on the 1986 Swedish stamp illustrated in Figure 4, Scott 1617. The snowy scene shows boot-clad villagers taking presents to the post office to mail.
Some stamps show holiday motifs with a local interpretation, such as the Gilbert and Ellice Islands 10¢ and 35¢ 1972 Christmas stamps illustrated in Figure 5, Scott 204-05. The stamps picture nativity scenes constructed from seashells that are found in local waters.
The Cook Islands released an interesting series for Christmas 1979 showing island arts and crafts and traditional Christmas decorations in combination with a floral motif.
The high value from the set of four, the 15¢ Ancestral Statue With Flowers stamp, Scott 540, is shown in Figure 6.
Because Cook Islands is in the southern hemisphere, Christmas and December occur there in summer, and the islands are even more abundantly abloom than the usual tropical climate allows.
What could be more appropriate for Christmas than the view of Bethlehem pictured on the 350-fil Palestinian Authority stamp shown in Figure 7, Scott 60b? The stamp is from a souvenir sheet of four.
The New Zealand block of four se-tenant 45¢ Christmas stamps shown in Figure 8 was issued in 1993.
The block shows the necessary accouterments for enjoying a Christmas celebration in New Zealand, where Christmas is a summertime holiday.
Presents flank a holiday plum pudding and trinket-filled Christmas crackers. In the background are the colorful sails of yachts, a pastime that might be enjoyed along with a day at the beach on Christmas Day in New Zealand.
The top two stamps in the block show a bouquet of pohutukawa tree blooms. This tree is known as the New Zealand Christmas tree. Its flower first appeared on a New Zealand Christmas stamp issued in 1972.
Figure 9 shows stamps depicting more familiar holiday themes: a 50¢+25¢ Floating Snowman semipostal stamp from the Netherlands, Scott B597; a 3.20-krone Carolers stamp, Norway Scott 1000; and a 26-penny Child Dreaming of Christmas Delights stamp, Great Britain Scott 1198.
One of the most popular legends of Christmas is Santa Claus.
Santa and his elves work tirelessly throughout the year making toys for good boys and girls, and then (as the legend goes) Santa delivers the goodies to the deserving on Christmas Eve.
He works all night long, stopping at every house on his reindeer-powered sleigh, an ordeal that must exhaust poor old Santa.
Christmas Island, located in the Indian Ocean and also in the southern hemisphere, issued a set of five stamps in 1986, Scott 189-93, that show Santa relaxing in the local environment. Four of the stamps are shown in Figure 10.
The 30¢ value shows Santa and two of his reindeer cruising in a speedboat, which seems like more excitement than he might wish to pursue after his trek.
The 36¢ stamp illustrates a more sedentary Santa relaxing on the beach with a cool drink while the reindeer examine a sea turtle.
A golfing Santa is shown on the 70¢ stamp, but the most endearing scene is on the $1 stamp, with Santa snoozing soundly in a beach hammock while the palm trees sway gently overhead.
Collecting Christmas stamps is a perfect way to extend the holiday spirit throughout the year.
Joining the Christmas Philatelic Club is a smart way to enhance enjoyment of Christmas stamps and related items.
The club publishes a six-times-a-year journal called Yule Log. It has its annual convention at various stamp shows.
It doesn't matter what time of year it happens to be. If the club is convening, the members have a wonderful Christmas party complete with Christmas gifts and often a visit from Santa.
The value of membership in the club easily outweighs the expense of the modest annual dues.
For membership information, contact the Christmas Philatelic Club, Linda Lawrence, Secretary, 312 Northwood Drive, Lexington, KY 40505-2104 or check out the club's wonderful web site at www.hwcn.org/link/cpc.
August 01, 2015 07:37 PMIt didn’t take long for the doom-and-gloomers to weigh in with their prognostications following the July 24 announcement from the American Philatelic Society that it hired former political aide Scott English to be the next executive director of the nation’s largest stamp club. Read More ›
July 30, 2015 08:04 PMIn the Editor’s Insights columns in the July 20 Linn’s Stamp News monthly and the Aug. 10 weekly Linn’s, I mentioned Linn’s Editorial Advisory Board without giving too much detail. Linn’s goal is to engage its audience both in print and online and to grow this audience. The role of the newly formed Linn’s Editorial Advisory Board is to assist us achieving these goals by keeping us focused on the needs of our audience and helping us adapt to today’s market. Read More ›
July 30, 2015 09:01 AMAs in previous years, Rarities Week, the series of sales conducted June 22-26 by Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries in New York, included several name sales as well as an assortment of notable items from around the world. The week kicked off with something of a do-over: a sizable assortment of better United States stamps and covers that had appeared in four previous sales, but whose winning bidder then failed to pay for them. Read More ›
July 23, 2015 04:35 PMThe Tieton, Wash., post office is a simple 1935 cement block building with a slat wood facade. Townsfolk in the agricultural community of 1,200 in central Washington believe the post office could become a landmark, if only the United States Postal Service would allow them to cover the front with a stamp-like mosaic. Read More ›
Watch as Scott catalog senior editor Marty Frankevicz discusses the largest souvenir card produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The card is one of three issued to honor the centenary of San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News associate editor Michael Baadke discusses Canada’s recently recalled $1.20 Dinosaur Provincial Park stamps featuring inaccurately described Hoodoo rock formations.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News editorial director Donna Houseman discusses the discovery of another pane of the intentionally created upright variety of the $2 Jenny Invert stamp.
Chad Snee discusses the recent sale of the glass locket containing the famed 1918 Jenny Invert airmail error stamp.
It is always a treat to get to see stamp dealers’ own collections.
In the recently concluded Linn’s United States Stamp Popularity Poll, the Circus Posters set of eight stamps was chosen as the overall favorite issue of 2014.
Dispersal of the splendid Daniel B. Curtis collection continued March 25, with Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries gaveling items from United States back-of-the-book and possessions.
The 175th anniversary of the first postage stamp, Great Britain's Penny Black, is May 6, but the stamp was placed on sale May 1, 1840, for mailers to use beginning on May 6, the designated issue date.