The tradition of sending Christmas cards is one that is cherished and still undertaken by many homes in Ireland. While it is the final touch before sending your post, the An Post stamp which adorns each envelope also tells its own story.

While it may seem like Christmas stamps have been around forever, they are actually a relatively new addition to our letters. The first stamp specifically created for Christmas was in 1971. Aileen Mooney, Corporate Communications & Stamp Design Manager for An Post, explains how the Christmas stamp came about.

An Post Christmas stamp 2013.

An Post Christmas stamp 1999.

An Post Christmas stamp 1971.


“Every year, we make a certain number of stamps on behalf of the State,” she says.

“They represent the best of what’s Irish, the Irish abroad and our role in the world. They’re reflective of the country at that moment of time — stamps are really a snapshot of how the country sees itself.

“Historically, stamps were like money and passports, they were signs of sovereignty. When we became sovereign and our own state, the stamps became reflective of our national identity. Some of the earliest stamps display Gaelic traditions and symbolism.

“As time moved on, it focused on celebrations like St Patrick’s Day, and Christmas. Since An Post launched the first Christmas stamp, it has become part of the festive season for many families and they’re now our biggest-selling stamps.”

An Post Christmas stamp 2020.

Stamp designs

In the first years of Christmas stamps, they carried fine art and a lot of religious imagery.

“We had a very definite way of showing Christmas on stamps for the first 10 years and then it got a little broader,” says Aileen. “You can see more mixed media art coming in and modern art in the 1980s.

“Photography was popular in the 90s, and then more recently, lots of illustration. As our population has grown more diverse, especially in terms of religions and different beliefs, so too have the stamp depictions. It can be a challenge to reflect this but it needs to be acknowledged.

“In 2020, we abandoned the Christmas stamp that had been planned in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. It needed to be more representative of what everyone was going through and the mood of the nation. Everybody was trying desperately to keep in contact with friends and family that year, posting more things.

“We wanted the stamps to be an anchor for supporting people. Christmas can be hard for people anyway and those Covid Christmases were quite tough.

“So we celebrated Christmas baking, which became really popular; scenes of nature, as people were reconnecting with it during that time; and we even had a virtual party scene.

“The campaign for the past few years has been the theme ‘send love’ and it has really gained legs. With the Christmas stamps this year, we wanted to keep this message but also embrace our other theme which is ‘festive fun’. There is a scene with people singing around a Christmas tree with a dog, but also collecting for charity. This really reflects the community spirit and togetherness that has carried on since the pandemic.”

As you peel off a stamp and place it carefully on your Christmas card envelope this year, take a longer look at the image, knowing it is picked to reflect a much larger narrative.

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