Did you know that since Royal Mail issued their first Christmas stamp in 1966, over 17 billion Christmas stamps have been printed in Britain? In most years since, Christmas stamps have gone on to become the most popular issue of the year. The 3rd November 2015 saw the 50th Great Britain Christmas issue to be released.
In honour of this milestone I would like to take the opportunity to look at some my favourites from these 50 issues.
Despite many requests over the years that the Post Office issue Christmas stamps, these had always been refused until Tony Benn became Postmaster General. He had originally wanted them in 1965 and even suggested a charity surcharge. Time was against him which meant 1966 was the soonest possible.
Benn, through the Post Office, organised a competition among schoolchildren aged under 15. The competition was launched on Blue Peter, which at the time received viewing figures of around 8 million twice a week. Response to the competition was huge. Over 5,000 designs were submitted which were assessed by a team of eight professional stamp designers. These first British Christmas stamps featured a design by Tasveer Shemza (of King Wencleslas) and James Berry (Snowman).
In 1977 the Twelve Days of Christmas were immortalised on the Christmas issue. David Gentleman’s clever design managed to include all 78 gifts mentioned in the song without the stamps looking cluttered and untidy.
The Christmas issue of 1981 really stands out for me as they were the first Christmas stamps that I remember. Again a nationwide competition was launched on Blue Peter and really caught the attention of children up and down the country. Unfortunately my entry did not make it on to the issued stamps! The five designs that were chosen were from children aged between 5 and 16.
I think 2004 is my favourite of all the 50 Christmas issues. These six stamps feature Raymond Briggs’ beloved Father Christmas as he goes about his duties on his busiest night of the year.
Starting with the 2nd class stamp we see him begin to deliver presents in a calm moonlit night, before battling through the elements(40p, 57p, 68p and £1.12) but by sunrise on Christmas Day all is calm again and his work is done (1st class).
From 2005 Royal Mail decided to alternate each year between secular and non secular Christmas issues. For the 50th issue the Christmas issue is non secular. The eight Christmas 2015 stamps feature six traditional scenes from the Nativity story: The Journey to Bethlehem, The Nativity, The Animals of the Nativity, The Shepherds, The Three Wise Men and The Annunciation.
If you’re interested…
Send festive wishes with this beautifully designed limited edition Christmas card issued to mark the 50th Great Britain Christmas issue