First Traditional Christmas Stamp 

First Traditional Christmas Stamp 

US #1321 – The original painting hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

On November 1, 1966, the US Post Office issued its first Traditional Christmas stamp, picturing the Madonna and Child with Angels, by Hans Memling.

By the early 1960s, the US Post Office was receiving 1,000 letters a year (for several years) asking for a Christmas-themed stamp to frank their holiday mail.  The idea was approved and the US issued its first Christmas stamp on November 1, 1962.

The stamp was wildly popular, featuring popular holiday decorations of a wreath and candles.  The Post Office had expected there would be a great demand for the issue, so they printed 350 million stamps – the largest print run for a special stamp up to that time. Those 350 million stamps sold out quickly, leading the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to produce more stamps – reaching over 860 million by the end of the year.

US #1321 – Classic First Day Cover.

While the Christmas stamp was very popular, it wasn’t without its detractors.  Some didn’t agree with the idea of the post office issuing a stamp honoring a religious holiday.  And others wanted Christmas stamps that were more religious.  The Post Office would continue to issue Christmas stamps in the coming years that featured the National Christmas Tree, seasonal plants, and an angel in 1965.  The angel was considered less controversial because angels are included in many religions, not just Christianity.

US #1321 – Fleetwood First Day Cover.

Then in 1966, the Post Office had a new idea. They could produce Christmas stamps utilizing classic paintings of the Madonna and Child.  These stamps wouldn’t violate the separation of church and state because they were a celebration of culture.   So on November 1, 1966, they issued the first US Madonna and Child stamp in Christmas, Michigan.  The stamp featured the 15th century painting, Madonna and Child with Angels, by Flemish painter Hans Memling.

US #1336 features a larger version of the same painting.

That stamp was very popular and over 1.1 billion were printed.  The design was so popular, it was used again on the Christmas stamp of 1967.  However, the 1967 stamp was larger and showed more of the painting.  The stamp’s continued popularity led the Post Office to issue another traditional Christmas stamp in 1968, this time picturing the Angel Gabriel.   For the 1969 issue, they reverted back to the non-religious theme, with a stamp picturing a painting called Winter Sunday in Norway, Maine.

Then in 1970, the Post Office made a big change. To keep people in both camps happy, they issued one traditional Christmas stamp, picturing a classic painting of the Nativity, plus a block of four picturing Christmas toys.  That decision proved popular and they have continued to issue stamps with both traditional and contemporary Christmas themes ever since.

US #1321/5144 – Get every Traditional Christmas stamp issued through 2016 in one money-saving order.

Click here to view all the Traditional Christmas stamps.

Click here to view all the Contemporary Christmas stamps.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

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6 responses to "First Traditional Christmas Stamp "

6 thoughts on “First Traditional Christmas Stamp ”

  1. Very interesting. I enjoy the Madonna stamps every year. In the sixth paragraph it states that the 1967 stamp was so popular that the Post Office issued an Angel Gabriel stamp in 1963?

    Reply
    • I’m very glad that a thoughtful Postal Service employee, or other government official thought of the idea of using the paintings to avoid the problem of offending those who are not Christians. Personally I have no problem with issuing stamps for any religious holiday, but I understand the Constitution. I am so thankful I live in the USA. I hope that people in the USA don’t get to taking it for granted. We are all blessed to tive in a free, diverse and beautiful country where we are free.

      Reply
  2. Being in India, I collect all Christmas related stamps from all over the world. They are so beautiful and convey Yuletide cheer…

    Reply

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