28 November 2017
Philatelic bureaux around the world have started to reveal the designs for their 2017 Christmas stamps, often the most popular and well used stamp set of the year.
While Great Britain have gone for the endearing artwork of school children (WIN the stamps in our latest competition), other post offices have opted for professional artists to create memorable seasonal stamps, including New Zealand, whose five stamps showcase the art of quilling.
Each stamp depicts a Christmas tree ornament diligently made from thin strips of paper. A New Zealand Post spokesperson said: ‘Quilling has been brought back to life in recent years with many hugely talented artists such as Yulia Brodskaya who is responsible for the stamp artwork, choosing it as their discipline. A close look at the art works displayed in this stamp issue give an idea of the time, patience and skill required to create these vibrant works.’
The USA’s two stamp sets both have a whimsical, celebratory feel. The four-stamp miniature sheet forms a circle of song as they illustrate the themes of four Christmas carols ‘Jingle Bells’, ‘Deck the Halls’, ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Jolly Old Saint Nicholas’.
The second set from the USA features the simple but evocative artwork of Ezra Jack Keats as it recreates scenes from his story The Snowy Day. A statement from the US Post Office explained: ‘Since the publication of this treasured tale five decades ago young readers have enjoyed joining Peter on his winter adventure. Unlike most popular children’s authors at the time, Keats made a point to feature ethnically and racially diverse characters in his work. Inspired by a series of 1940 Life magazine photographs of a young African-American boy, Keats began writing The Snowy Day. Using paper collage, fabric, stamps and India ink, he crafted the unique look of the story’s wintry urban landscape.’
Snow scenes are also featured on Norway’s offering, with two stamps showing a country and city scene, respectively, each with a Christmas tree adding colour and anticipation. ‘When it is clear and cold, the sky is painted blue for an hour in the morning and again in the evening,’ the posten website reads, ‘the days are at their shortest, the expectations at their highest.’
For some nations Christmas time isn’t quite as snowy. The average temperature in the Bahamas during December is 24c, so the island nation has chosen to show ‘bright and vibrant’ Christmas plants on this year’s seasonal set, namely Caribbean Pine, Holly, Poinsettia, and Ivy. ‘Many plants were originally used in pre-Christian times as part of the winter solstice celebrations, celebrating new growth and warding off evil spirits’ the stamp information explains. ‘When Christianity came to Western Europe, many wanted to continue using the plants for decorations, giving them new Christian meanings.’
Of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a stamp or two depicting the main man himself, Santa. But the beautifully drawn Icelandic stamps show not one Santa but two, in the shape of the ‘Yule Lads’, the figures from Icelandic folklore (there are actually thought to be thirteen of them) who in more recent times have become the Icelandic version of Santa. Tradition says the lads put rewards or punishments into the shoes the local children leave on their window sills, as seen on the ‘B50g’ stamp, which shows one of the lads, sporting a typical Scandinavian woolly jumper, about to leave a present for an expectant youngster.
Finally, the Christmas stamps from Aland reminds us of that other unavoidable aspect of the season: food! The two stamps each show an elaborately decorated gingerbread house… if only our own attempts at baking looked this good!
Read about Britain's latest stamps in our GB Stamps guide.