1994 29¢ Santa with Present
· Issued self-adhesive for sale over the counter and in post office vending machines
· 31st Contemporary Christmas issue
Stamp Category: Commemorative
Set: Contemporary Christmas
Value: 29¢, rate for first-class mail
First Day of Issue: October 20, 1994
First Day City: Harmony, Minnesota
Quantity Issued: 239,997,600 (237,996,000 in panes and 2,001,600 in coils)
Printed by: Avery Dennison
Printing Method: Photogravure
Format: Booklet panes of 12 in sheets of 360; coils of 3,336 stamps
Perforations: Die Cut
Why the stamp was issued: For use on holiday mail
About the stamp design: This stamp was designed by Harry Zelenko, who had previously designed the 1988 Special Occasions booklet stamps and the 1990-91 Liberty Torch stamps. It features a post-like image of Santa holding a Christmas present with eight five-pointed stars in the sky.
About the printing process: This stamp was produced both in booklet and coil formats. The coils were available as full rolls of 3,336 or strips of 12. Each 12-stamp strip included one stamp with a plate number (#2873b). When removed from the backing paper, the booklet and coil stamps (with the exception of #2873b) are identical.
First Day City: Harmony, Minnesota – The Christmas Philatelic Club (CPC) was celebrating its 25th anniversary in 1994 and planned a large celebration. They launched an extensive campaign to get that year’s Christmas stamps issued in Harmony, where the CPC was founded. The USPS ultimately obliged, issuing three of that year’s Christmas stamps in Harmony.
About the Christmas Series: By the early 1960s, the US Post Office was receiving 1,000 letters a year (for several years) asking for a Christmas-themed stamp to frank their holiday mail. The idea was approved and the US issued its first Christmas stamp on November 1, 1962.
The stamp was wildly popular, featuring popular holiday decorations of a wreath and candles. The Post Office Department had expected there would be a great demand for the issue, so they printed 350 million stamps – the largest print run for a special stamp up to that time. Those 350 million stamps sold out quickly, leading the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to produce more stamps – reaching over 860 million by the end of the year.
While the Christmas stamp was very popular, it wasn’t without its detractors. Some didn’t agree with the idea of the post office issuing a stamp honoring a religious holiday. Others wanted Christmas stamps that were more religious. The Post Office would continue to issue Christmas stamps in the coming years that featured the National Christmas Tree, seasonal plants, and an angel in 1965. The angel was considered less controversial because angels are included in many religions, not just Christianity.
In 1966, the Post Office came up with a plan to produce Christmas stamps utilizing classic paintings of the Madonna and Child. These stamps wouldn’t violate the separation of church and state because they were a celebration of culture. On November 1, 1966, they issued the first US Madonna and Child stamp in Christmas, Michigan. The stamp featured the 15th century painting, Madonna and Child with Angels, by Flemish painter Hans Memling.
That stamp was very popular and over 1.1 billion were printed. The same design was used again the following year, however, the 1967 stamp was larger and showed more of the painting. The stamp’s continued popularity led the Post Office to issue another traditional Christmas stamp in 1968, this time picturing the Angel Gabriel. For the 1969 issue, they reverted back to the non-religious theme, with a stamp picturing a painting called Winter Sunday in Norway, Maine.
The Post Office made a big change in 1970. To keep people in both camps happy, they issued one traditional Christmas stamp, picturing a classic painting of the Nativity, plus a block of four picturing Christmas toys. That decision proved popular and they have continued to issue stamps with both traditional and contemporary Christmas themes ever since.
History the stamp represents:
Author and professor Clement Clarke Moore is generally considered the author of “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” also known as “The Night Before Christmas.” Clarke claimed he wrote the now-famous poem while riding in a sleigh during a snowy shopping trip.
Moore’s inspiration came from a local Dutch handyman, as well as the historical Saint Nicholas. Many Europeans celebrated the feast of St. Nicholas on December 6. A fourth-century bishop named Nicholas was revered for giving gifts to the poor, and it became a tradition for children to set their shoes by the hearth on the evening before his celebration. During the night, he would fill them with small treats of nuts and fruit. When the Dutch settled in the New World, they brought their customs with them, including visits from Sinterklaas, as they called the saint.
Moore also took inspiration from the writing of his friend, Washington Irving. In his A History of New York, Irving wrote about St. Nicholas riding over the trees in a wagon to deliver presents to children while smoking a pipe.
On December 23, 1823, the poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” was published in Troy, New York’s Troy Sentinel with no author listed. Moore had written the poem for his children and hadn’t intended for it to be published. As a respected professor, he didn’t want to be connected to such a fanciful writing.
The poem was popular with readers and continued to be printed in the Sentinel and other papers. Several publishers attributed the poem to Moore, though he didn’t acknowledge it as his own work until 1844. At that time, he was publishing a book a of poetry and his children insisted he include it.
Though Moore published the poem in one of his books, there are some that believe he wasn’t the author. They attribute the poem to Henry Livingston Jr. While Livingston never claimed authorship during his lifetime, and no printings of the poem have been found with his name attached, some still believe he wrote it. They believe the poem’s meter and phraseology are similar to Livingston’s. Also, Livingston was of Dutch heritage, which would explain the Dutch naming of some of the reindeer. Meanwhile, Moore’s defenders believe he could’ve gotten these Dutch influences from his friend, Washington Irving.
Despite the faction of Livingston supporters, Moore is largely credited as the poem’s author. In the years after its publishing, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” gave Americans the version of Santa we have today – a “jolly old elf” able to slide down chimneys and ride in a magic sleigh. He filled stockings, rather than shoes, with gifts. One of the most traditional stocking stuffers are whole oranges. Their golden-orange color is said to represent the gold coins gifted to a poor family by the original St. Nicholas all those centuries ago.
Moore was one of the earliest authors to suggest the idea of St. Nicholas going down the chimney to deliver toys. Previous traditions simply had him dropping the toys down the chimney before moving on to the next child’s house. As new advancements were made in heating homes, chimneys and fireplaces became less common. With this, the tale of St. Nicholas had to evolve as well. For example, when cast iron stoves were popular, it was said he would squeeze through the stove pipe to enter a home.
Moore’s poem also introduced the idea of Santa’s sleigh being pulled by reindeer. The names Moore chose are interesting in that they all have a connection to flight or speed. Dashers are fast runners; dancers can move quickly and almost appear to fly when they perform certain jumps. Prancing indicates high steps that make an animal appear light on their feet. A vixen is a female fox, an animal that can reach speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. A comet is an incredibly fast-moving space object that flies across the sky. Cupid is the Roman god of love and is most often depicted as having wings. Finally, Donder and Blitzen come from the Dutch words for thunder and lightning – both powerful natural forces that occur in the sky.