Postal Service phases out Christmas
Each year since 1962, the Postal Service has created a commemorative stamp for the Christmas season. That first 4-cent stamp depicted a green wreath with a red bow and the words "Christmas 1962" on the lower half of the stamp.
In 1966, the first of a recurring series of Christmas stamps showing various artists' renditions of the Madonna and Child began. This series would run until 2004.
In 1972, a double Christmas issue began. The "traditional" stamp continued with its Madonna and Child depiction. The new "contemporary" stamp showed secular symbols - Santa Claus, among others. Although different in subject, they all had the word "Christmas" on the face of the stamp.
In 1980, the contemporary stamp began to change. The words "Christmas" or "Merry Christmas" were replaced with "Season's Greetings." In 1986, "Season's" was stricken from the contemporary in favor of the one word "Greetings." In 1995, the contemporary changed again when "Greetings" was dropped in favor of no wording.
This brings us to 2005, when you no longer will find traditional Madonna and Child Christmas stamps or the word "Christmas" on any stamps at your post office. For the first time in 43 years, the Postal Service has not issued a traditional Christmas stamp.
However, you will find the brand new "holiday issue" - four 37-cent stamps of holiday cookies. The first shows a cookie Santa. The second shows cookie snowpersons, one masculine and one feminine. Another shows a cookie angel. The last shows cookie elves, one a light sugar cookie the other a dark gingerbread.
The Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee, appointed by the U.S. postmaster general to delegate subject matter on postage, should be duly recognized in approving this "holiday" series. The U.S. Postal Service Web site lists a few members: Jean Firstenberg, director American Film Institute; Dr. Henry Gates Jr., Afro-American Studies chair, Harvard University; Michael Heyman, chancellor emeritus, University of California at Berkeley; and Karl Malden, actor.
These distinguished Americans are certainly very inclusive in regards to race and gender, and thoughtful enough to add mythical persons, Santa Claus and spirit persons -angels. At the same time, they bravely shield us from the offensive by avoiding any reference to "Christmas."
My only question of the committee is this: Explain to me, please, exactly what "holiday" do these new stamps celebrate?
This year, maybe I'll just send a Christmas e-mail instead.
Originally published October 29, 2005