It was on this day in 1898 that Canada released its first Christmas stamp.
Canadian Postmaster General William Mulock wanted a Christmas stamp that would show the vast extent of the British Empire, with Canada’s place in the centre. According to canadachannel.ca, the result was this design made by Warren L. Green, president of the American Bank Note Company Limited in Ottawa.
The lines come from Sir William Morris, a Welsh poet. On the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, Morris wrote “A Song of Empire”, published as the Jubilee Ode in June, 1897. The line occurs in the following stanza:
“We hold a vaster Empire than has been!
Nigh half the race of man is subject to our Queen!
Nigh half the wide, wide earth is ours in fee!
And where her rule comes all are free.
And therefore ’tis, O Queen, that we,
Knit fast in bonds of temperate liberty,
Rejoice to-day, and make our solemn Jubilee.”
However, according to Wikipedia, that stamp was not intentionally earmarked to celebrate Christmas.
The Canadian map stamp of 1898 bears an inscription “XMAS 1898”, but it was actually issued to mark the inauguration of the Imperial Penny Postage rate. The Christmas connection has long been reported to have been the result of quick thinking; William Mulock was proposing that it be issued on Nov. 9 to “honor the Prince” (meaning the Prince of Wales), but when Queen Victoria asked “what Prince?” in a displeased manner, Mulock realized the danger, and answered “Why, madam, the Prince of Peace.”