By Jesse Robitaille
Canada Post issued the final set of its most recent Lunar New Year series on Jan. 17, a day after the stamps were unveiled at the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto.
Designed by Albert Ng and Seung Jai Paek, who have worked on several past Lunar New Year issues, the stamps present a traditional “Rat’s Wedding” story in a style of folk art known as Chinese farmer painting. The set’s Permanent domestic-rate stamp depicts the bride on her way to her nuptials while an international-rate stamp shows the happily married couple.
“A merry wedding procession of rats is a common folk-art motif associated with the Chinese New Year,” said Ng, 70, who’s the founding president of the Association of Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario and is known as the “Father of Accreditation.”
“The snowy scene, reminiscent of Canada or northern China, joyfully captures the celebration of the wedding – and the coming new year.”
This year’s release is the final issue from the popular collection that began in 1997 and has since seen two separate 12-year series issued. The first series ran from 1997-2008 while the second series began in 2009.
The 2020 “Year of the Rat” stamps, which were printed by Toronto’s Colour Innovations, are available in:
- panes of 25 Permanent (domestic rate) stamps;
- booklets of 10 Permanent stamps;
- booklets of six $2.71 (international rate) stamps;
- souvenir sheets with one $2.71 stamp;
- transitional souvenir sheets with one $2.65 stamp and one $2.71 stamp; and
- uncut press sheets of 12 souvenir sheets, each with a $2.71 stamp.
The 25-stamp panes; single-stamp souvenir sheets; two-stamp transitional souvenir sheets; and uncut press sheets were all printed using five-colour lithography, embossing and foil stamping.
A total of 7,000 uncut press sheets – plus 350 framed, signed and numbered sheets – were issued as part of the set. The framed sheets are signed by both Ng and Paek.
The 10-stamp booklets were printed using six-colour lithography while the six-stamp booklets feature five-colour lithography and foil stamping.
An official first-day cover (OFDC) with one Permanent stamp and another souvenir sheet OFDC with a $2.71 stamp were both serviced with a Toronto cancellation.
A pair of postcards paying the domestic and international rates, respectively, were also issued.
Also available are several first-day-of-issue envelopes, including one franked with a domestic-rate stamp and others with one of four variations (upper left, lower left, upper right and upper right) of four-stamp corner blocks. Another special first-day-of-issue envelope includes the single-stamp souvenir sheet and is sold unsealed for the Chinese New Year custom of giving money in a red pouch.
YEAR OF THE RAT
The Year of the Rat – the first of the 12 signs in the Chinese zodiac – began on Jan. 25 and ends on Feb. 11, 2021.
As legend has it, the rat earned the primary position thanks to its cunning nature. According to one story, the Jade Emperor based the 12-year cycle on the order in which the animals arrived at the heavenly temple. The rat persuaded the tireless ox, which was sure to win, to carry it to the finish line. Just as the ox approached the temple, the rat jumped down and scurried ahead to take first place.
Famous people born during a Year of the Rat – 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996 or 2008 – include Bobby Orr, David Suzuki, Margaret Trudeau, Elvis Stojko, Winston Churchill, William Shakespeare and George Washington.
PAST RAT STAMPS
Another pair of Year of the Rat stamps (Scott #2257-28) were issued in 2008 to close out Canada Post’s previous Lunar New Year series.
Designed by Toronto-based artist Harvey Chan, they feature two stylized rats based on another Chinese folk tale, “The Mouse Bride.”