During the Christmas season, when Christmas displays and the public outcry against them get almost equal billing, the tiny postage stamp dares to push the envelope, so to speak.
While some towns are battling over the use of red and green lights on city buildings, Nativity scenes in parks and what to call holiday evergreen trees, the tiny adhesive squares on billions of letters and packages this December will subtly remind postal workers and mail recipients about Christmas and other religious holidays.
This year the Postal Service has issued more than 2.6 billion holiday stamps. The majority of them are called “holiday knits” featuring Christmas images that look like hand-knit evergreens, snowmen, deer and teddy bears.
The rest of the seasonal stamps feature the Madonna and Child and commemorate Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Muslim festivals.
According to a 2007 press release by the Postal Service, the Madonna and Child stamp has been a U.S. tradition since 1978.
What it doesn’t describe is the road it took to get there.
The series actually got its start in 1966, four years after the first Christmas stamp debuted with a wreath, two candles and the words “Christmas 1962.”
The first religious Christmas stamp owes its origin in part to the lobbying efforts of the late Anthony Coviello, a parishioner at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Waterbury, Conn.
The 1966 stamp, “Madonna and Child With Angels,” started a trend of Christmas stamps featuring Renaissance paintings.