The world’s first Christmas stamp (1898)
This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.
The world’s first Christmas stamp was issued in Canada on December 7, 1898. With this stamp, a single rate of 2 cents was introduced, starting December 25, 1898, for mail in any country of the British Empire that chose to subscribe to this system.
It features a Mercator map, which projects the spherical Earth onto a flat plane, and the words “XMAS 1898.” Countries that were part of the British Empire at the time appeared in red, with the inscription “We hold a vaster empire than has been” referring to a song by poet Sir Lewis Morris (1833–1907), “A Song of Empire,” composed on June 20, 1887, in honour of the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.
This stamp was the first in a long tradition of issuing Christmas stamps. However, it was not until the 1960s that Canada Post began regularly to issue postage stamps to celebrate this holiday.