Most countries issue special stamps for Christmas. Among the most colourful and thematically interesting Christmas stamps are those released by Australia Post. Every year two sets are released – one is for Australia and the other for Christmas Island, which has been under Australian control since 1958. Located in the India Ocean, around 2,600 kilometres north-west of Perth, capital of Western Australia, Christmas Island is the sole peak of an underwater mountain range rising above the ocean’s surface.
A highlight of the Christmas Island stamps is the humorous approach intended to link the festive theme to the Island’s name.
Red Crabs (Gecarcoidia natalis) are a familiar sight on Christmas Island. They are figured prominently in the stamps this year. In one stamp they are seen stacking themselves into a Christmas tree in the Island’s forested interior. Atop the crab-tree is an Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica natalis) with a string of tinsel in its beak.
In the second stamp, the comical Red Crabs hail the presence of a tropical snowman – the northern hemisphere symbol having been transported to the island in the sunny south. A coconut is delicately balanced on a Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas).
Apart from the stamps, the official First Day impress features a Red Crab. The First day cover, the mini-sheet and other printed material also have Red Crabs prominently displayed.
Following the usual approach, this year too, the Australian Christmas stamps are on both religious and secular themes. Christmas being the season for joyous celebration and good will, while two of this year’s stamp designs convey greetings based on the traditional religious story of the birth of Christ, another three are modern designs conveying familiar trappings in the festive season.
A colourful and joyful interpretation of the traditional Biblical story is seen in the religious stamps. One shows Mary with the baby and the other the three wise men.
The mini-sheet for the two religious tamps, while cleverly embedding the two stamp designs, represents the scene shortly after the birth of Christ. The tony baby lies in the manger surrounded by Mary and Joseph and the adoring animals. An owl gravely observes the scene from the rafters above. To the right, the three wise men, also called Magi or kings, have arrived from the east on their camels searching for the Saviour. They find the Christ Child by following a guiding star, and on arrival offer gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. A scarlet angel announces the arrival of the wise men with a triumphant trumpet fanfare.
Since not all who celebrate Christmas are Christians, the other three stamps are designed to appeal to those who prefer a more secular celebration. For many, Christmas is a time to gather with family and friends and reflect of the past year. It is also an opportunity to show forgiveness, peace and reconciliation, to demonstrate love for the dear ones and to enjoy a holiday break. This spirit is captured in the other three stamps. One features a wrapped gift as gesture of generosity and love while the other two represent the symbolic dove of peace.