Australia’s Christmas stamps have been out for a few weeks, so let’s see what Auntie Jan is getting on her Christmas card this year.
The first question is: religious or secular? Australia issues both, befitting a country full of people like Auntie Jan, who will defend our Christian heritage until the cask wine gets the better of her and she keels over, but who couldn’t find the nearest church if a magical star hovered above it.
I love this year’s religious stamps. Colourful and modern, but not so clever as to become devoid of warmth. Some beautiful touches – the texture in the starlight, the serene looks on the animals, and those beards on the wise men are straight out of an Assyrian frieze.
I really like the tiny star. One often sees the star expanded to ridiculous sizes in nativity scenes, hovering just above the stable like a satellite dish. But here, perspective restores it to its heavenly realm, leaving its beams to bathe the scene in gentle light.
And I always like an ethnically accurate non-white Mary, much as it probably confuses Auntie Jan. I was pleased to see an article in the Sydney Morning Herald about this issue, and stamps in general, along with an interview with the first-time designer, Sonia Kretschmar. She talks of the non-white Mary and some of the other choices and restrictions involved. I never knew that Mary’s robe HAD to be blue! How delimiting of womanhood, not to mention probably socioeconomically inaccurate.
These two stamps also appear together in a rather pretty minisheet, complete with Joseph, angel, butterfly and an adorable duck. But one of these stamps is for domestic postage and the other for international, which means you wouldn’t actually use the minisheet for real-life mail, rendering it un-postal collector-bait which shall not sully my site. So there. (Same applies to the Christmas Island stamps at the bottom.)
The secular stamps are designed by John White, in keeping with the traditional White Christmas. They’re a stark contrast from the religious ones. I liked the colours, but my jury was out until I saw them. I’ve seen them now, and they’re winners. I have to admit that the embellished 65c stamps (available in peel’n’stick sheetlets) are a little bit shiny and spesh. However, I cannot conscientiously support the purchase of peel’n’stick stamps in any format, as it results in a even greater amount of plastinated paper ending up in landfill where it will probably remain for hundreds of years. And all just to save you the hassle of licking a stamp! (If anyone at Australia Post would care to correct me and tell me the backing paper is recyclable, that would be the best Christmas present ever. Then stop wrapping all of your stamp products in plastic and I’ll be happy.)
Let’s turn to the Australian Indian Ocean territory of Christmas Island, whose stamps we Australians can totes use on our mail.
Christmas Island has two things: giant crabs, and an immigration processing centre where Australia sends foreign-born criminals and asylum seekers. Since our immigration detention centres aren’t very festive, they don’t get to be on the Christmas stamps. Strange, really, because if Mary and Joseph turned up in modern Australia on the run from Herod’s soldiers trying to kill Jesus, there’s a good chance they’d be dispatched to Christmas Island’s detention centre. Deck the halls with boughs of irony, fa la la la laaaaa la la la laaaa.
So not for the first time, the crabs are carrying the Christmas can. CI Christmas stamps are usually a riot of colour, and this year’s, designed by Stuart McLachlan, are no different. Santa’s been a regular subject in the past, but sadly it looks like he’s fallen foul of Border Force too this year, for arriving at our borders without a valid visa. So the crabs have had to make their own fun, with the help of a passing turtle and some birds. Look! They’ve made a Christmas tree and the tropical version of a snowman.
There’s always a lot going on in these stamps, and you have to look closely to figure it all out. As a rule, I wouldn’t enjoy quite so much busyness, and I have to be in a special mood to take to this much colour all at once. But I can’t resist these stamps. They’re too fun and joyous. Kids will love them, once they recover from the fright of seeing a stamp on the mail.
And anyway, as our government has taught us, rules don’t apply on Christmas Island.
Enjoy your auburn-skinned Mary stamp, Auntie Jan! x
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