The United States Postal Service will issue a four-stamp set celebrating popular Christmas carols on the opening day of the American Stamp Dealers Association’s Fall Postage Stamps Show in New York City.
The non-denominated (49¢) forever stamps each depict a scene and a phrase evoking one of four Christmas songs: Deck the Halls, Silent Night, Jingle Bells, and Jolly Old Saint Nicholas.
Familiar lines from each song highlight the individual stamps. Shades of blue in the stamp backgrounds are intended to evoke the evening scenes from the four carols. While not forming a unified design, the adjacent quadrants in each stamp appear to form a Christmas ball.
The self-adhesive stamps will be issued in a double-sided pane of 20, which the Postal Service describes as a booklet. A first-day ceremony has been scheduled for noon on Oct. 5 at the New York Hilton Midtown, 1335 Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue and W. 53rd Street).
The issue date is the first day of the ASDA Fall Postage Stamp Show, taking place at the hotel Oct. 5-7. Admission to the show and the Thursday first-day ceremony is free.
Among those participating in the ceremony will be USPS director of Stamp Services Mary-Anne Penner, USPS brand marketing executive director Christopher Karpenko, and American Philatelist editor Jay Bigalke, who is leaving the American Philatelic Society staff in October to begin work as Linn’s Stamp News editor-in-chief.
The four stamps in the new set feature original artwork by Steve McCracken, whose previous stamp projects include the 1993 Circus set of four 29¢ stamps, the 44¢ Snowboarder stamp for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, and the 34¢ Community Colleges stamped envelope issued in 2001.
“The shades of blue in the backgrounds of the stamps evoke the evening scenes from the four carols,” the Postal Service said about the new set.
“The stamp art is designed so the stamps are as graphically pleasing in a group as they are individual. Familiar lyrics from each song highlight the individual stamps. The artist first sketched the artwork in pencil and then rendered it as a digital illustration.”
Howard E. Paine, who died in 2014, was the art director for this issue.
The first Christmas carol featured on a U.S. stamp was The Twelve Days of Christmas, on Christmas Carols Stamps for the 1971 season. The illustration by Jamie Wyeth shows a partridge in a pear tree and the first line of the song.
The four songs immortalized on this new set include two with origins from other countries.
Deck the Halls is derived from a Welsh tune published in the late 18th century, according to the Postal Service. New lyrics were created and published in 1862 by Scottish poet and musician Thomas Oliphant (1799-1873).
The lyric printed on the new stamp is the song’s simple chorus, “fa la la la la, la la la la.”
The only song among these four to relate the Christian story of Christmas is Silent Night, created in 1818 when Austrian church organist Franz Xaver Gruber put music to a poem written a few years earlier by an Austrian priest, Joseph Mohr.
Mohr’s poem describing the Nativity was translated into English in 1859 by Episcopal priest John F. Young.
The Christmas Carols Stamps depict a sleeping lamb and the star of Bethlehem, a design that also reflects the lyrics printed on the stamp: “all is calm, all is bright.”
Forever stamps will always be equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce price.