P.O. Box 744
all year long...
Christmas Philatelic Club
A popular Christmas postmark
In Austria, it is Christkindl, the Christ Child, who brings the presents on
Christmas Eve. Christkindl is also the name of a small village located in Upper Austria,
just west of Steyr. It is here where the most popular Christmas postmark originates.
Originally the village started as a pilgrimage shrine where a healing miracle had
occurred. According to folklore of the area, a choirmaster and organist, Ferdinand Sertl
who suffered from epilepsy visited the area in the winter of 1691. For health reasons, he
walked often in the woods above the town of Steyr. Being a religious man he often resorted
to prayer while on his walks. On one occasion he carried a small statue of the Christ
Child given to him by nuns from a nearby convent. He placed the statue in a niche he had
cut in a pine tree in the forest. Kneeling before the statue he prayed for relief from his
illness. His health did improve and local people hearing of his "miraculous
cure" visited the area and soon it became a seasonal centre for pilgrims from
Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Holland and France. In 1697 a small wooden enclosure was
built around the tree.
|By 1709 a church was erected at the site. The unique church,
constructed under the direction of two famous master builders, Italian architect Carlo
Antonio Carlone and Austrian architect Jacob Prandtauer has become a prominent tourist
attraction in Austria today. Reconstructed in 1877 the church (Fig. 2) has incorporated in
its central altar, the tree trunk.
|In 1950 the Austrian postal administration decided to use the
village for a Christmas mail promotion experiment. A seasonal post office was opened in a
hostelry and a special hand cancel was applied to mail posted here. At the time
Christkindl was in the Russian Occupation Zone. Seeing something sinister in the
proceedings, mail with the Christ Child carrying a tree (Fig. 3) was allowed to be sent
only within Austria. 42,330 pieces received this green cancel.
|An obvious success, the practice has continued ever since;
the central theme of most postmarks used since being either the Infant Jesus or the name
Christkindl. In 1951, 50,113 pieces of mail received the cancellation showing the Christ
Child on a cloud holding a smaller tree (Fig. 4). Since 1951, the mail was permitted
|The feast of 3 Kings is also of special significance in
Austria. Beginning in 1965, two different designs were used to cancel mail; a Christmas
theme is used through Dec. 26 and a Three Kings theme is used from Dec. 27 to Jan. 6 (Fig.
5). The temporary post office opens in late November each year and has become one of
Austria's busiest post offices handling over 2.5 million pieces of mail. It is easy to see
why these postmarks have become one of the most popular items among Christmas collectors.
Some links to other pages
with information about Christkindl.