THE nativity story is to feature on the Royal Mail’s Christmas stamps this year, depicting the story from the annunciation to the birth of Jesus and the journey of the Magi.
The biblically themed stamps have been welcomed by the Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, who designed the Royal Mint’s first Christmas coin on a nativity theme (News, 28 October 2016), as an important marker against the secularisation of Christmas.
Bishop Cameron said: “I think it is very important that we maintain the religious aspect and Christian celebration of Christmas on our stamps, particularly in respect to the postage on Christmas cards. We always use the icon-Old Master themed stamps in my office by deliberate choice — not least because, if sales drop, then the designs might be dropped, and they are becoming harder to get hold of, or so it seems, year on year.
“A year without any religious-themed stamps would be very sad, I think, and mark a further step towards the secularisation of Christmas.”
The series of six Christmas stamps went on sale this week. They feature the work of the paper-cut artists known as Hari & Deepti (Deepti Nair and Harikrishnan Panicker), who have used layers of intricate paper and light boxes to create each scene.
The Royal Mail issues special stamps each Christmas, although often on a secular theme. A Royal Mail spokeswoman said, however, that when the Christmas stamps had a non-religious theme — such as last year’s stamp — there was always a Madonna and Child stamp available for “those who prefer to send their festive greetings with a religious stamp”.
The Royal Mint has also issued a new commemorative coin for Christmas, featuring the Snowman from Raymond Briggs’s picture book.
The Christmas coin designed by Bishop Gregory (New, 28 October 2016) was the first coin to feature the nativity. The Bishop, a coin collector and artist, said that the Royal Mint started with the nativity for its series of Christmas coins, and then moved on to other Christmas themes, such as this year’s Snowman.
“They deliberately decided to start with the nativity theme, as the foundation of Christmas. It acknowledged the fact that it is a Christian festival, although my design was the first design in the 1000-year history of the Royal Mint to feature the figure of Christ.
“I know that there was some discussion at the Mint about the appropriateness of having an explicitly religious coin, which is not something that has ever featured in British coinage, but they started where Christmas starts. I don’t think they planned or needed to continue.”