I received a pleasant “stamp” surprise while reading the newspapers at my in-laws over the Christmas holidays.
It’s a morning routine to grab a cup of coffee and sit next to my father-in-law Tom as he hands over sections of the London Free Press and his hometown paper, the St. Thomas Times-Journal. Before I go on, I need to add that I worked as a reporter/editor at the Times-Journal (locally known as the T-J) in the late ’80s and early ’90s and it’s where I met my wife Karen.
Whenever we’re home, I look forward to catching up on the local news. As Tom handed over the first few sections of the Free Press (he reads the sports section first!), I spent some time reading the first section consisting of local and national news. The next section I grabbed was “An Edition of NP” (National Post), eight pages covering national and international news. When I flipped over to page two I was so surprised by the content that I quickly flipped back to the cover page to confirm the article was indeed published in the National Post.
Page two was totally dedicated to an article entitled “Stamping an identity,” by Ottawa writer David Akin. The more than 1,000-plus-word feature was surrounded by 25 strong illustrations of Canadian Christmas stamps, including the world’s first Christmas stamp, issued on Dec. 7, 1898.
Not only did Akin provide a wonderful perspective on the history of Canada’s first Christmas stamp, he delved into the delicate challenges Canada Post faced in dealing with secular and non-secular Christmas stamps.
“Since 1964, Canada has issued roughly 180 different Christmas stamps. Throughout, one can see a country struggling with the role of religion in its society. One year, Canada would issue stamps heavy with religious imagery. The next, nothing but Santa, snow and sleighs,” Akin writes. “And at the end of each season, Canada Post would get hundreds of complaints either way: Too much Jesus, not enough Jesus.”
Akin goes on to explain how Canada Post juggled public criticism for years until 2005, when the Crown corporation landed on a compromise and decided “to issue four ‘seasonal’ stamps each year with at least one of those four having a religious theme and the rest ‘fun’ themes.” The complaints stopped.
As a stamp collector, I found Akin’s article a delightful and informative read. But, more importantly, it was exhilarating to witness one of Canada’s national newspapers create such wonderful news interest in stamps. A few days later, while speaking to Canadian Stamp News columnist Ian Robertson, he excitedly started to tell me about the “stamp” story in the National Post. I told him I had read it as well and even kept my father-in-law’s copy (with his approval, of course). While I actually didn’t see the full National Post edition, Ian commented on how the newspaper even promoted the story with great imagery on its front page.
While today’s collectors often bemoan the fact that our hobby has lost much of the profile it once had due the 21st century’s many distractions, it’s nice to be reminded that stamps remain part of the collective consciousness in Canada.