Sunday, December 3, 2017

Christmas Firsts #3 - Postage Stamp

 I have been using old Christmas stamps in my collages for Christmas cards. Finding  amusing stamps  like the one above of Santa Clause riding the waves in a classic Australian summer scene,  I began to wonder when the first Christmas stamp was issued? I didn’t know that in asking that question I was to become engaged in one of the serious debates in philatelic circles.
The contenders for the claim of  first Christmas stamp are :
1. 1898:Canada - a map stamp with the lettering “Xmas 1898”
2.   1935: British Troops in Egypt were issued with a stamp 
to send their mail back to the UK - marked Xmas 1935 *
3.      1937:  Austria - Rose and Signs of the Zodiac stamps **
4.     1939: Brazil - Three Wise Men and Star of Bethlehem
 semi postal or charity stamp ***
5.      1943: Hungary - Message to the Shepherds, Nativity and Adoration of the Magi stamps.
 If we accept that the definition of a Christmas postage stamp is one which is a commemorative issue for Christmas, then the following can be eliminated after some research …
2.  * because the stamp the British forces were issued with was more of a seal rather than a postage stamp.
3. ** because these stamps were not issued specifically for Christmas . One researcher indicates that they were issued to be used on birthday congratulatory letters. Austria Post also states” "The first official Christmas stamp of the Austrian Post has been issued in 1953."
4.***because these stamps were not issued for Christmas even though they depicted a Christmas scene. Brazil did not issue Christmas stamps until 1966.
So the finalists are Canada 1898 and Hungary 1943 ….
Many philatelists also eliminate Canada because the stamp while it was issued in December and bears the inscription ”Xmas 1898” , the stamp was not issued to commemorate Christmas but reather to promote the Penny Post in the British Empire. The Canada Post states:   "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 mail."  However, others argue that the “first” is Canada’s because the wording undeniably includes “Xmas” , regardless of the  reason behind its issue.  Hungary has a lot of experts in its corner as the image is definitely ‘Christmassy ‘ and the Philatelia Hungarica states "the first Christmas stamp in Hungary was issued in December 1943´
 Was it Canada? Was it Hungary? Or do you think one of early eliminations should be considered for the title of the FIRST?  I am not sure... 
The following facts are not debatable but interesting.

In 1957, Australia released its first Christmas postage stamp, followed by USA (Pittsburgh) in 1962  and the United Kingdom in 1966. This started the tradition of an annual release of Christmas postage stamps. I happen to have  quite a  collection of Christmas postage stamps. None of them are valuable, but they all little reproductions of beautiful art. What is your favourite Christmas postage stamp? Please let me know in a comment below. 

Tomorrow : The First Jingle Bells sung where????? 


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