2020 stamp program unveiled

Third ‘Far and Wide’ set, ‘Rat’s Wedding’ Lunar New year stamps, ‘Colored Hockey Championship’ among next year’s issues from Canada Post

By Jesse Robitaille

Three days before Canada Post publicly unveiled the country’s 2020 stamp program, Susan Gilson, one of two stamp design managers with the Crown corporation, gave show-goers in Mississauga a special preview of what’s to come.

Gilson, who led a keynote presentation at the National Postage Stamp and Coin Show on Sept. 7, offered attendees an exclusive visual sneak peek of the first four months of next year’s stamp program plus a list of other stamps to be issued through 2020.

“You’re all familiar with ‘Far and Wide,’” said Gilson, who showed the series’ third souvenir sheet of nine definitive stamps, each depicting “must-see” Canadian destinations.

Some of the nine locales include the Northwest Territories’ Carcajou Falls, Prince Edward Island’s French River and British Columbia’s Kootenay National Park, which celebrates its centennial in 2020.

Each numeral of each stamp’s rate, however, was replaced with an “X” on the souvenir sheet shown by Gilson. That’s because this June, Canada Post proposed a two-cent increase in its domestic lettermail rate as well as other rate increases for domestic registered mail plus U.S. and international mail.

“They don’t have the confirmation of the rates yet,” Gilson added, “and it’s better to put the ‘X’ in rather than just put an amount in that stays and gets printed incorrectly.”

If they’re approved, the rate increases would take effect Jan. 13, 2020 – the same day the third set of the “From Far and Wide” series is slated for release.

Also due for release on Jan. 13, 2020, is the final set of Lunar New Year stamps. This 12-year series began in 2009, following another 12-year series that ran from 1997-2008.


“You’re also probably all familiar with the ‘Lunar New Year’ series,” said Gilson, of the long-running collection that began in 1997 and has since seen two separate 12-year series issued.

“This is the last one,” she added. “It’s a very bold and colourful issue, and there’s a lot of research that goes on in developing it – a lot of people work together to create it.”

The 12th and final issue in this second Lunar New Year series, it’s also due Jan. 13, 2020. It marks the Year of the Rat with a “Rat’s Wedding” theme.

Also known as the “Rat’s Marriage,” the Chinese folk story tells the tale of “a worship ceremony hosted in many places in China,” according to an article posted to 21chineseculture.com, an online guide to Chinese culture, this spring.

The 2020 Lunar New Year issue will also include an official first-day cover.

The ceremony, which was widely depicted by ancient folk artists but may not have been so widely practiced, saw rats take advantage of humans’ unusual impartiality during the new year with a wedding.

“On the night before the wedding day, people will make sesame candies as wedding candies and create some noise with pot covers and dustpans as warm-up activities to urge the bride to get dressed,” adds the 21chineseculture.com article.

“On the wedding day, children are told to be quiet and lamps are put off at night to make sure the wedding is carried on smoothly. They will also put some food such as candies, cakes and flower-shaped rice pastries in case that the wedding guests are hungry.”

A common theme of “Rat’s Wedding” folk art is a wedding procession of rats carrying a bride in a palanquin while playing horns and cymbals; however, they’re usually followed by a cat, which replaces any other rodent-like suitors as the most powerful – and this sought-after – partner.

Of course, the marriage is doomed as the cat ultimately eats his new bride.

Susan Gilson, one of Canada Post’s two stamp design managers, gave attendees of the National Postage Stamp and Coin Show an exclusive visual sneak peak of the upcoming stamp program for 2020.


Later that month, on Jan. 31, 2020, the Black History Month series will continue with a celebration of the “Colored Hockey Championship.”

“This has been an interesting one,” said Gilson, who added this issue was handled by her stamp design manager counterpart Liz Wong.

“She did work with an illustrator to create this illustration based on photographs.”

With “very little” photographic evidence available of the Maritimes-based Colored Hockey Championship, Canada Post’s research and design teams were left to piece together whatever old photographs remain to create an accurate image, Gilson said.

“Different experts give opinions on the uniform and things like that, but it’s not based on any one image; it’s put together through a lot of different things.”

By the end of the 19th century, as Nova Scotia’s black population reached 6,000, segregation between black and white communities “prevented Blacks from playing hockey with white teams,” according to a presentation at the 2001 World Hockey Conference republished online at birthplaceofhockey.com.

“Since white teams refused to accept challenges to play, Blacks played contests with each other and seven teams existed in the Maritimes by 1900,” added the presentation, produced by Garth Vaughan.

“While regular games by white teams brought crowds of 200-300, Black games attracted up to 1,200 mainly white fans.”

Despite the initial success, the league fell out of favour as “verbal abuse flourished with both crowds and journalists,” Vaughan added, but its successful legacy – including some ahead-of-their-time rules – lives on today.


On March 2, Canada Post’s ‘Flowers’ series will continue with a set featuring dahlias.

Rounding out the first quarter of 2020 is another continuation, this of the “Flowers” series, with a set of stamps featuring dahlias.

“This is a bright, punchy spring issue,” said Gilson, who added these stamps will be released on March 2.

Found mostly in Mexico, where it has been that country’s national flower since 1963, as well as Central America, dahlias are also grown in gardens around the world.

This year – 2019 – was named “the year of the dahlia” for bulb crops by the U.S.-based National Garden Bureau, the self-described “marketing arm of the gardening industry.”


Other highlights of next year’s program include stamps celebrating:

  • the 75th anniversary of V-E Day – the end of the Second World War in Europe – and the Canadians who contributed to the Allied victory;
  • Canada’s radio history;
  • notable works by the Group of Seven in a seven-stamp set marking their 100th anniversary;
  • two legends of Canadian ballet;
  • the history, culture and contributions of Canada’s First Nations, Inuit and Métis;
  • vintage travel posters (with “promising sunny skies, memorable sights and fascinating adventures,” according to a statement from Canada Post);
  • “medical groundbreakers” honouring the life-saving contributions of some of Canada’s most respected health care researchers in a five-stamp set; and
  • an evocative work by First World War artist Mary Riter Hamilton on a single stamp.

Other series making an encore appearance in 2020 include:

  • the Canada Post Community Foundation semi-postal stamp, which supports Canadian children and youth;
  • stamps marking Eid, Diwali and Hanukkah; and
  • Christmas and holiday stamps featuring traditional scenes of the Nativity plus the colourful folk art of Nova Scotia’s Maud Lewis.

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