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First Christmas

5 facts about the stamp that started it all

The first U.S. Christmas stamp featured a wreath, two candles and the words “Christmas 1962.”

To help you get in the holiday spirit, here are five facts about the first U.S. Christmas stamp, issued in 1962.

1. The 4-cent stamp was issued in panes of 100. The image by Jim Crawford, a postal artist, depicted two lit candles near a green holiday wreath tied with a red bow.

2. The stamp was a big hit. The Postal Service, then called the U.S. Post Office Department, initially issued 500 million Christmas stamps — the largest number produced for a special stamp at that time. By the end of the year, with demand soaring, 1 billion of the stamps had been printed and distributed.

3. But the stamp was controversial, too. Critics argued a stamp honoring Christmas or any religious event violated the Constitution, which prohibits the government from favoring one religious faith over another. Others contended the stamp’s modest image was uninspired.

4. The United States was late to the Christmas stamp game. Several other countries — including Hungary, Cuba, Haiti, Luxembourg, Spain, Austria, Liechtenstein and Australia — had stamps honoring the holiday before the United States.

5. The stamp started a tradition. The Postal Service has continued to extend seasonal greetings with stamps honoring secular and religious holidays — including this year’s Holiday Wreaths stamps that evoke the 1962 release that started it all.

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