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The World's First Christmas Stamp

by Kathy Ward

1898XMAS.jpg (14828 bytes)It is 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 Christmas mails."

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 investigated.

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 in 1953."

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 kward33@cogeco.ca

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.


 

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