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.

Christmas stamp issued December 7, 1898, by the Post Office Department of Canada, Canadian Museum of History, 1999.85

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.

Profile picture for user Canadian Museum of History
Canadian Museum of History

The Canadian Museum of History welcomes over 1.2 million visitors each year to its celebrated complex in the heart of the National Capital Region, making it the country’s most-visited museum. With roots stretching back to 1856, it is one of Canada’s oldest public institutions and a respected centre of museological excellence, sharing its expertise in history, archaeology, ethnology and cultural studies both within Canada and abroad.