Published on December 17th, 2016 | by Michelle Roper-Shaw
50 Years of Christmas Stamps
In 2016 we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Royal Mail Christmas Stamps. Since this weekend is your last chance to get your Christmas Cards written, what better time to look back on this wonderful tradition.
The History of the Christmas Stamp
Over the last 5 decades, Christmas stamps have been created by some of the world’s best artists and designers. Included in this prestigious list are Quentin Blake and Raymond Briggs along with some very talented competition winners.
The idea of producing stamps with a Christmas theme had long been suggested before Postmaster General Anthony Wedgwood Benn took steps to make them a reality. Through the Post Office, he organised a stamp-design competition for schoolchildren which attracted 5,000 entries.
In 1966, Edward Short, Benn’s successor launched these very first Christmas Stamps and presented the two six-year old winners Tasveer Shemza and James Berry with their prizes. Their designs featured the King of the Orient on the 3d stamp and a Snowman on the 1s 6d stamp.
As the competition was so popular it was launched again in 1981 and in 2013 where Tasveer who was one of the original winners was invited to judge the shortlist of designs. You can still order the Christmas 2013 Presentation Pack here at the Post Office Shop.
Christmas Stamp Themes
Christmas stamps have depicting themes and imagery from either religious or traditional perspectives for years. It is Royal Mail’s policy to alternate non-secular and secular themes each year.
The first fully secular Christmas stamp was in 1968 showing children with their gifts with an inscription of “Happy Christmas”. Over the years these stamps have also marked important dates in history. In 2011 the stamps commemorated the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.
Designs of a non-religious nature have featured numerous themes. These have included Christmas decorations by leading stamp designer Jeffrey Matthews, pantomime characters by Adrian George, Wallace and Gromit and some illustrated scenes by Quentin Blake from Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”.
A range of Christmas Stamps from various years are still available, if you are looking to add to your stamp collection or are thinking of starting a new hobby in philately.
Christmas Stamps 2016
Following on the long tradition of inviting the country’s finest artists and illustrators to design the Christmas stamps, the Christmas 2016 stamps are no exception. The designs have been visualised using paper cut-outs by artist Helen Musselwhite, and then photographed by leading still life photographer Jonathan Beer.
To create the images, Helen created paper sculptures to make various Christmas scenes. She cut out each picture by hand and then folded the paper along special creases to create the multi-levelled images.
The Christmas 2016 Presentation Pack explores the five decades of festive stamps. It brings together a visual from each year (mainly first class) starting with the first Christmas stamp and also includes the 2016 stamps. This brightly designed pack was written by stamp expert and former editor of the British Philatelic Bulletin, John Holman, who examined the history of Royal Mail Christmas Stamps.
Each stamp for 2016 showcases a favorite symbol of the festive season;
First Class and First Class Large showcase a Robin, a key icon when posting mail at Christmastime. This Robin stamp is also inspired by postmen in the 1800’s who had the nickname “Red Breasts” because they wore bright red waistcoats.
Second Class and Second Class Large depicts a Snowman with his matching blue hat and scarf. Will we have a white Christmas this year so we can build our own snowman?
£1.05 displays a beautifully decorated Christmas Tree, something that all the family look forward to gathering around together to exchange gifts.
£1.33 shows a Christmas Lantern, a familiar item featured in many Victorian and traditional Christmas scenes.
£1.52 fills the stamp with a Christmas Stocking. The tradition of hanging out a Christmas stocking goes back to the time of Saint Nicholas.
£2.25 is stuffed with a Christmas Pudding. If you still haven’t made yours yet, take a look at our Christmas Pudding recipe.
Last Posting Dates for Christmas
For all the details on Tracked, Special Delivery, and International Delivery last posting dates, please refer to our Last Posting Dates for Christmas 2016 guide.