Pushing the envelope? Religious image stamps part of holiday tradition
Published: October 12, 2012
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When the U.S. Postal Service unveiled its new Christmas stamp Oct. 10 featuring an image of the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt, there was no uproar about religion in the public square, or in this case, rectangle. "We didn't get a single phone call or email from anyone who took exemption to the stamp," Roy Betts, a spokesman for the Postal Service, said Oct. 11. "And with the speed with which people can respond today, they would have if they wanted to," he added. He said he thought people were more concerned with other things such as the presidential election. He also said the post office doesn't "really get comments" about the holiday stamps in general, most likely because of the diversity of stamps -- besides stamps with Christian imagery, there are those that commemorate Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Muslim festivals. As an aside, he said one year the Postal Service inadvertently left out the image of its Eid stamp -- commemorating the Muslim festivals of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha -- from a poster about its holiday stamps. The Postal Service heard about it, and then some, and within 24 hours, he said, new posters were displayed that included all the holiday stamps. As he put it: "People are passionate about this (issue)." But right now, he added, "they're not complaining." The diversity in stamps, which may have quelled the naysayers, is fairly new. The first U.S. Christmas stamp debuted in 1962 with a wreath, two candles and the words "Christmas 1962." Four years later the postal service issued what became more of the traditional Christmas stamp featuring a Renaissance painting of the Madonna and Child. By contrast, the other holiday stamps took longer to get their corner of the market. The Hanukkah stamp marking the eight-day Jewish festival of lights debuted in 1996. The Kwanzaa stamp for the African-American holiday first appeared in 1997 and the Eid stamp was not issued until 2001.
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