The First Christmas Stamp in America
Christmas Stamp Firsts
2009 USPS Holiday Stamps
First Christmas Stamp Was Issued in 1962
During the holidays, Americans send more than 2 billion greeting cards, and many of us go out and buy special Christmas postage stamps just for the occasion. It's such a tradition that you may not realize it's only been in the past few decades that the United States Postal Service started issuing these special stamps. The first Christmas stamp in the United States wasn't released until 1962 and other winter holidays - Hanukkah and Kwanzaa - weren't recognized with their own stamps until 1996 and 1997, respectively.
The United States, however, didn't invent holiday stamps. Credit for the first Christmas stamp generally goes to Canada, which issued a 2-cent stamp in 1898 with the words, "XMAS 1898." The stamp, which featured a map of the world, wasn't originally planned to celebrate the holidays. But when Postmaster William Mulock suggested to Queen Victoria that the stamp be issued in November to "honor the Prince," the queen seemed displeased and asked which prince Mulock was referring to. He quickly replied, "the Prince of Peace, m'am," and the stamp was released in December with the Xmas inscription.
The United States didn’t issue its first Christmas stamp until 1962. The 4-cent stamp featured a wreath, two candles, and the words “Christmas 1962" and quickly sold out the initial run of 350 million stamps. As a result, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing had to work around the clock to meet the demand for the special holiday release. By the end of the 1962 holiday season, one billion of the stamps were sold.
The US Postal Service has issued new Christmas stamps every year since then (except in 2000 when the rates were about to change), and now it’s also possible to create your own personalized USPS stamps for the holidays with online services that make it easy to use your own photos and images.
More Firsts for Holiday Stamps
The first Christmas stamp was issued in 1962, but there have also been other important milestones in the holiday stamp program. Here are a few highlights.
1966 - First Madonna and Child painting depicted on a holiday stamp. The stamp was controversial due to claims that it violated the "separation of church and state," but the post office has continued to release such a design every year since then, always using designed based on Old Master paintings in US galleries, so the stamps qualify as depictions of art.
1967 - First commemorative-size Christmas stamp. Commemoratives are generally about twice the size of regular stamps.
1970 - First issuance of two different panes of holiday stamps: one secular (non-religious) and one religious.
1972 - First appearance of Santa Claus on holiday postage.
1974 - First self-adhesive Christmas stamp.
1982 - First holiday stamp at postcard rate.
1996 - First holiday stamp recognizing Hanukkah
1997 - First holiday stamp recognizing Kwanzaa
2000 - First year with no new holiday designs. The post office didn't want to print new holiday stamps because the postal rate was set to increase just after the holiday season and they still had a large number of holiday stamps from the prior year.
More Christmas Pages by lisa42
- How to Create Personalized USPS Stamps for Special Occasions
Special occasions deserve special notice, and if you're sending invitations, thank you notes or announcements for the big moments in life such as weddings, birthdays, graduations, bar mitzvahs, baby showers,...
- USPS Christmas Stamps 2009
The United States Postal Service has been issuing special holiday postage stamps since 1962. People love to decorate their holiday mail with these special stamps, and the post office has fueled the fun by...
- The Candy Cane Legend
People have been enjoying candy canes as far back as the 17th century. Originally, they weren't "canes" at all and weren't associated with Christianity or the holidays, but today they have strong symbolism...
- Cool Christmas Cards
Sending out Christmas cards is an annual ritual that most people participate in. It's a chance to share good wishes with family and friends and to remind the folks you didn't see much during the year that...
- Easy Reindeer Crafts for Kids
Looking for an easy Christmas craft project for kids? These simple reindeer crafts are quick, easy and inexpensive to make. But kids love 'em! Just follow the simple directions below and you'll soon have your...
- Ideas for Creative Christmas Letters
Stumped about what to put in your annual Christmas letter? Then think outside the box. Maybe it's time for an extreme makeover.
- Santa History: How Saint Nicholas Became Santa Claus
The Historical Saint NicholasThe history of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a fourth century Christian bishop known for his generosity. Saint Nicholas was born around 270 or 280 AD in what...
More by this Author
If you enjoy putting your own face on dancing elves, you'll enjoy these sites that give you more options for fun holiday videos.
Are candy canes a reminder of why we celebrate Christmas? Many people think so. Here's more about the candy cane legend and the candy cane poems that describe this simple candy's message for believers.
Many people would like to write a love letter to someone special, but don't know quite how to start. How should you begin a love letter? There's really no right way. There are many phrases you can use to get get...