The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Holiday stamps: keeping Christ ON Christmas

It’s that time of year again, and as you get ready to send out your Christmas cards, CNS has helpfully written a nifty history of the Christmas stamp:

The series actually got its start in 1966, four years after the first Christmas stamp debuted with a wreath, two candles and the words “Christmas 1962.”


The first religious Christmas stamp owes its origin in part to the lobbying efforts of the late Anthony Coviello, a parishioner at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Waterbury, Conn.

The 1966 stamp, “Madonna and Child With Angels,” started a trend of Christmas stamps featuring Renaissance paintings. The series was interrupted in 1977 when the Christmas stamp featured a praying George Washington.

The next year the Postal Service resumed the Madonna and Child stamps and the series has continued ever since, with a close call to stop production in 1995.

When a Postal Service advisory committee voted to replace the Madonna and Child stamp with a Victorian-era angel, a flurry of negative reaction from public interest groups and even then-President Bill Clinton, prompted an immediate reversal.


Marvin Runyon, postmaster general at the time, said the Madonna and Child stamp would stay, at least while he was in office, because it had “occupied an important place” for so many years and was “meaningful to so many Americans.”

And in 2007, the Madonna and Child stamp is still sticking to its spot in the right corner of millions of pieces of mail. This year’s “Madonna of the Carnation” is a detail of a Bernardino Luini painting of the same name from around 1515 and housed in Washington’s National Gallery of Art.

Check the link for the rest of the story. And remember to mail your cards and packages early. Preferably, with Christmas stamps.

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posted December 1, 2007 at 12:06 am

I note that the post office says it offers stamps for the other religions. Wonder what the aetheist stamp would look like. guess it would be a stamp with nothing on it.

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posted December 1, 2007 at 1:08 pm

I believe any sort of aetheist stamp offered by the US Post Office would have to be issued on April Fools Day… Sad, but true…

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posted December 1, 2007 at 4:55 pm

I just paid the bills and used stamps featuring the Hulk and other comic book characters. Seemed appropriate to me.I like the Hanukkah stamps and the Eid al Fitr stamps are beautiful as well.My favorites were the carosel stamps, but it’s been a long time since those were in circulation.

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Mr. Basso

posted December 1, 2007 at 9:01 pm

While I absolutely love the idea of honest to God Christmas stamps, I refuse to use these because any item that you mail will have a cancellation (ink) stamp over it by the postal service. I bought some of these Christmas stamps a few years back but before I sent my cards I recieved one from a friend. The ink cancellation stamp was of the Cat in the Hat and it read (in Dr. Seuss font) “Happy Holidays”. If the postal service wants to wish people “Happy Holidays” with the Cat in the Hat or any other character they can do it on their own. They don’t need to piggy back their wishes on my cards, and certainly don’t need to deface and image of the Blessed Virgin and Our Lord in the process.I exchanged my Christmas stamps for something more neutral.

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posted December 3, 2007 at 12:58 pm

In our local USPS, this year’s stamp is called Madonna of the Carnation? Did they mean Incarnation or is that correct?

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posted December 4, 2007 at 10:08 am of the Carnation is a Da Vinci painting.

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