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Sat Dec 8, 2018, 11:08 AM

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 8: Christmas and the US Post Office

Note: Items from USPS are press releases to the public and not bound by DU copyright rules.

Image of the first Christmas-themed U.S. postage stamp, which was issued in 1962 and featured a wreath and candles.

The United States Post Office Department issued its first Christmas stamp in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on November 1, 1962. Customers had requested such a stamp for years.

Anticipating a huge demand for the new Christmas stamp, the Department ordered 350 million printed - the largest number produced for a special stamp until that time. The green and red four-cent stamps featured a wreath, two candles, and the words "Christmas 1962". The initial supply sold out quickly and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing began working around-the-clock to print more. By the end of 1962, one billion of the stamps had been printed and distributed.

Although the decision to print a Christmas stamp generated some controversy, especially from groups concerned about maintaining the separation of church and state, legal actions to bar the stamps were not successful.


Since US started being issues in 1847, not having a Christmas stamp until 1962 seems strange. It took them a while to catch up to the Holidays of other faiths. (Although in their defense, I'm not sure sending greeting cards is a tradition for these other holidays.)

In 1996, the Postal Service paid tribute to Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, by issuing the first Hanukkah stamp, which featured a stylized illustration of a menorah. A design featuring an ornate dreidel followed in 2004. This season, the Postal Service will continue selling the 2009 Hanukkah stamp, the third U.S. stamp to commemorate the holiday.

In 1997, the Postal Service paid tribute to Kwanzaa, the celebration of family, community, and culture, by issuing the first Kwanzaa stamp, which featured a colorful portrait of an African-American family, a “symbol of family and togetherness.” A design featuring seven figures in colorful robes followed in 2004. This season, the Postal Service will continue selling the 2009 Kwanzaa stamp, the third U.S. stamp to commemorate the holiday.

In 2001, the Postal Service paid tribute to Eid, by issuing the Eid stamp, which features the phrase “Eid Mubarak” — meaning “blessed festival” — in gold Arabic script on a blue background. The stamp commemorates the two most important festivals on the Islamic calendar: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. The stamp has been reissued in the original design to reflect current stamp prices.

There is currently a petition for the USPS to issue a stamp for the next Hindu festival of Diwali.

How does Christmas affect the Post Office?

From an article last year in USA Today:

This holiday season, the U.S. Postal Service said it expects to deliver more than 15 billion pieces of mail, including 850 million packages. Despite the rise of email and more private package deliverers, USPS says its volume is expected to be 10% more than the same period last year. Take that, Santa

The holiday crunch time begins Dec. 11, but climaxes Dec. 18 to 24. USPS predicts its workers will deliver close to 200 million packages during each of those two weeks. And amid the pre-Christmas week rush, the post office will handle close to 3 billion pieces of first-class mail as holiday card-sending reaches its peak.

The busiest day online will likely be Dec. 18, as over 7 million people go to the service's website to ship packages, the Postal Service forecast.


Tomorrow I'll look at the origins of the Holiday Christmas Card,

(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )

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