Why the stamps were issued: To celebrate Santa and his elves, the most important figures in the classic non-religious Christmas story.
About the stamp designs: Each stamp pictures a colorful digital illustration of an elf wrapping presents or working on toys as they move along a conveyor belt with a snowy forest in the background. Art by Don Clark.
First Day City: The First Day of Issue Ceremony was held at Santa Claus House in North Pole, Alaska.
About the Contemporary Christmas series: The US issued its first Christmas stamp (picturing a wreath and candles) on November 1, 1962, and it was wildly popular. The Post Office printed 350 million stamps, the largest print run for a special stamp up to that time, but still the stamps quickly sold out. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing produced more to satisfy demand and the total number issued was over 860 million by the end of the year.
In 1966, the Post Office started issuing traditional themed Christmas stamps picturing the Madonna and Child and other religious icons. In 1969, they switched back to non-religious Christmas designs with a stamp picturing the painting Winter Sunday in Norway, Maine.
Finally, in 1970, the Post Office decided to permanently split Christmas stamps into two categories to satisfy everyone: Traditional and Contemporary. They issued a block of four stamps picturing Christmas toys along with a stamp picturing a classic painting of the Nativity. The decision to do both proved popular, and the Post Office has continued to issue stamps in both categories ever since.
History the stamp represents: Tales of Santa Claus and St. Nicholas date back hundreds of years. But the idea of small elves helping him is a relatively recent creation.
Louisa May Alcott is believed to have been the first to mention these elves by name in her 1850 unpublished book, Christmas Elves. In 1857, Harper’s Weekly published a lengthy poem called “The Wonders of Santa Claus.” The poem referred to elves at work making millions Fof pretty things, Cakes, sugar-plums, and toys, To fill the stockings of little girls and boys.
The poem helped to popularize the idea, and in 1873, an illustration on the cover of Godey’s Lady’s Book‘ presented one of the first depictions of Santa and his elves.? Illustrations in Austin Thompson’s 1876 “The House of Santa Claus” also helped familiarize people with Christmas elves. And in the 1920s, famed painter Norman Rockwell depicted Santa and his elves rushing to get a dollhouse built in time for Christmas.
It wasn’t long before elves made the leap to the big screen. Most famously, in the 1964 film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, one of the main characters is an elf named Hermey who wants to be a dentist.
In the 2000s, elf popularity skyrocketed with the introduction of the Elf on a Shelf doll. Developed from a family tradition, these elves visit homes during the holidays and report back to Santa.