First Christmas Stamp in America Was a Hit

The first Christmas stamp issued by the United States Postal Service wasn’t released until 1962, and it was so popular that the initial print run sold out quickly. As a result, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing had to work round-the-clock to meet the demand. It was the start of a holiday tradition. Since that time, the USPS has issued new Christmas postage stamps every year (except 2000) so postal customers can decorate their seasonal mail.

History of Christmas Stamps

During the holidays, Americans send more than 2 billion greeting cards, and many of us go out and buy special Christmas postage stamps to adorn those cards and Christmas letters. It’s such a tradition that you may not realize it’s only been in the past few decades that the United States Postal Service started issuing these special stamps. The first Christmas stamp in the United States wasn’t released until 1962 and other winter holidays – Hanukkah and Kwanzaa – weren’t recognized with their own stamps until 1996 and 1997, respectively.

The United States, however, didn’t invent holiday stamps. Credit for the first Christmas stamp (shown here) generally goes to Canada, which issued a 2-cent stamp in 1898 with the words, “XMAS 1898.” The stamp, which featured a map of the world, wasn’t originally planned to celebrate the holidays. But when Postmaster William Mulock suggested to Queen Victoria that the stamp be issued in November to “honor the Prince,” the queen seemed displeased and asked which prince Mulock was referring to. He quickly replied, “the Prince of Peace, m’am,” and the stamp was released in December with the Xmas inscription.

The United States didn’t issue its first Christmas stamp until 1962. The 4-cent stamp featured a wreath, two candles, and the words “Christmas 1962” and quickly sold out the initial run of 350 million stamps. As a result, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing had to work around the clock to meet the demand for the special holiday release. By the end of the 1962 holiday season, one billion of the stamps were sold.

The US Postal Service has issued new Christmas stamps every year since then (except in 2000 when the rates were about to change), and now it’s also possible to create your own personalized USPS stamps for the holidays with online services that make it easy to use your own photos and images.

(Public domain image of world’s first Christmas stamp provided by Wikipedia.)

This video shows some of the religious artwork that has been depicted on Christmas postage stamps over the years.