The World's First Christmas Stamp
by Kathy Ward
quite a debatable matter as I have found out in the past. Myself, I would like to claim
that Canada's 1898 map stamp was the world's first. But knowing that its purpose of issue
was not for Christmas but to commemorate the introduction of imperial penny postage on
Christmas Day 1898, I cannot claim it as the first Christmas issue. The Canada Post 1964
PS 14 states that Canada's 1964 issues are the first special Christmas issues in Canadian
postal history. "Although Canada produced a stamp bearing the words 'Xmas 1898' in
1898, the 1964 issues are the first Canadian postage stamps intended especially for use on
What then is the world's first Christmas stamp? First let's examine, what is a
Christmas stamp. According to a Yule Log (bimonthly journal of the Christmas Philatelic
Club) of the past and an article by Dominic Sama, I am inclined to agree that a Christmas
stamp is a stamp issued expressly for the holiday and pictures a holiday-related motif.
Several stamps fall into the category of showing a holiday-related motif but the
question remains, were they issued expressly for the holiday? As mentioned in earlier
columns by Ken Mackenzie, founding member of the Christmas
Philatelic Club, I have been communicating with many countries trying to find which
Christmas related stamps were issued for the holiday. Here are some of the ones I
Netherlands has issued some early semipostals that have been interpreted as having
a Christmas theme. Scott # B12 "Winter" or Child in Manger and B66-69 Child
carrying the Star of Hope, symbolical of Christmas Cheer. But communications from the
philatelic service state that the Netherlands postal services do not issue special
Christmas stamps but on occasion an issue is related to the Christmas theme.
In the book "75 Years of Christmas Stamps" by Waller Sager and Kathleen
Berry, a reference is made to a William Wylie article in Scott's Monthly Journal of Dec.
1971. Wylie claims that Austria's 1937 Rose and Signs of the Zodiac were the first stamps
issued for use on Christmas and New Year greeting cards. For quite some time, I believed
this statement. However, my suspicians were aroused when I purchased a First Day Cover of
these stamps. On the cachet, it states that the Austrian post office issued the stamps to
be used on birth-day (sic) congratulatory letters. A letter from Austria confirmed my
suspicions: "The first official Christmas stamp of the Austrian Post has been issued
A 1939 semi-postal from Brazil shows the 3 Wisemen and Star of Bethlehem. But its
purpose of issue was not for Christmas. The Brazilian Post Office did not begin
"issuing commemorative Christmas stamps" until Dec. 8, 1966.
Hungary 1943. Scott #617, 618 and 619. Message to the Shepherds, Nativity and
Adoration of the Magi. There is no doubt that these stamps have a Christmas theme. But
were they issued for Christmas use? A letter from Philatelia Hungarica states "the
first Christmas stamp in Hungary was issued in December 1943. The curiosity of this issue
was that this was the first stamp on the world which depicted expressly Christmas
scene." This has led me to the conclusion that Hungary's 1943 set is the world's
first Christmas stamp.
Any challenges to the foregoing conclusion? Does anyone have any ideas on which
country issued the first Christmas semi-postals?
Send a message to the author, Kathy Ward, at firstname.lastname@example.org
The above article first appeared in the August 1985, Yule Log. Vol. 17, No. 8. The
Yule Log is the bimonthly publication of the Christmas
Philatelic Club, a worldwide organization.
* The opinions expressed in the above article are those of Kathy Ward and not
necessarily those of the Christmas Philatelic Club.