Once upon a time, the Lunar (or “Chinese”) New Year was just a thing that Asians did. Whitey went to Chinatown to watch the firecrackers and eat yum cha, but that was about it.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the 21st Century.
Asia got richer, and China boomed. As the Chinese (and Indian) middle class grew, it reawakened the cobwebbed hobby of stamp collecting. It’s a very middle-class hobby, which appeals to people who are really, really into their country. And Chinese people are really, really into their country. Because if they’re not, they get sent to prison camp.
Then someone invented the Internet, and people stopped sending mail. Meanwhile, old people insisted on dying, game consoles turned children into zombies, and the supply of new stamp collectors to Western postal authorities stopped dead… just when their cash-strapped governments started demanding impossible profit margins.
Then Chinese stamps started to attract ridiculous figures at auction.
And that’s when the West decided it should issue Lunar New Year stamps.
Australia Post disguised its cash grab by suddenly remembering that there are lots of ethnically Chinese people on the Australian territory of Christmas Island (no, not in the immigration detention centre). Naturally, they deserved a stamp, and in 1994, they got one. Or two, actually. (And a mini-sheet if you want to go looking for it.)
In 1996, AP began a 12-year cycle in which all the Lunar New Year stamps complemented each other, often with colours of red and gold. I wasn’t too interested in these at first, but over the course of the zodiac, I must admit, they won me over with their riotous vibrancy and playful cocks. Continue reading