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50 years of Christmas Special Stamps

Royal Mail / 08 December 2016

2016 is the 50th anniversary of the first Christmas Special Stamps

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History of Royal Mail’s Christmas Special Stamps
The first stamps, issued on 1 December 1966, were the result of a children’s art competition announced by the Postmaster General, Tony Benn, in May of that year. Since then, only twice have children’s designs been used on Christmas stamps – 1981 and 2013.

Some 180 million stamps were printed for the first issue of Christmas Special Stamps. Since then, over 17 billion Christmas Special Stamps have been printed. During the same period, there have been 229 Christmas Special Stamps designs.

The Christmas Special Stamps alternate each year between secular and religious images. However, Madonna and Child stamps are also available on the secular years for those who prefer to send their festive greetings with a religious stamp.

The most common recurring themes are as follows:

Three main religious Themes:
1. Jesus Christ
2. Angels
3. Cathedrals/Churches


Three main secular Themes:
1. Birds/Animals
2. The Arts/Entertainment
3. Festive Foliage

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2016 Christmas Special Stamps
This year’s stamps celebrate some of the popular traditions of Christmas in the UK.

The stamps have been meticulously crafted using paper cut-outs and then photographed and feature images of a decorated Christmas tree, a snowman, a Christmas stocking, a Christmas pudding and a Christmas lantern. It also includes a robin redbreast, which is synonymous with Royal Mail’s Christmas and has a strong association with sending and receiving cards and messages, its appearance on cards having been inspired by the red coats worn by postmen in Victorian times.

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