USPS Just Released New Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa Stamps
The collection includes five new stamp designs and will be available online later this year.
Most people don’t love the process of addressing and mailing holiday cards, but I look forward to it all year. Every December, I make my own cards, pick out coordinating washi tape, and order themed stamps. This year, there will be 5 new holiday stamps to choose from: The US Postal Service recently announced they’ll be releasing five new holiday designs this year: A Hanukkah stamp, a Kwanzaa design, two new Christmas stamps, and a book full of snowy winter scenes.
This news comes as a welcome surprise to many, as the USPS typically comes out with a new Christmas stamp each year, but they don’t release designs for Hanukkah or Kwanzaa as often. Many of the stamps in the upcoming release were also created by female artists and designers of color. We chatted with artist Jing Jing Tsong, who designed the new Hanukkah stamp, about the importance of having a diverse set of designers create the stamps for holidays that don’t always receive the same level of recognition as Christmas.
“I’m excited to be part of a time where people recognize the need to make space for more diverse voices. Our stories are inextricably linked—recognizing this, helps us understand ourselves and our world with more clarity," she says. “I believe that helping people celebrate their holidays is a powerful way to say, ‘I see you and I celebrate you.’”
The USPS released preliminary images of the new stamp designs but hasn’t said yet when the new collection will be available for purchase.
How New USPS Stamps Are Designed
We chatted with Ethel Kessler, one of the four art directors for stamps for USPS, to find out more about the design process. When creating new stamp designs, Kessler’s team takes recommendations from the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee. The CSAC is a group of about 15 people with a diverse set of backgrounds and interests that comes together to make quarterly recommendations on new stamp designs. When ideas are chosen, the art directors get to work to bring the themes to life with the help of independent artists and designers.
Kessler said the design process varies based on the subject of the new stamp: All of the designs require an extensive amount of research, and the art director has to decide whether an illustration, designed image, or photograph fits the small stamp size best. In the case of a repeating theme or event (like a holiday), the designer also needs to consider how to put a fresh take on the new image.
“Stamps such as Hanukkah, which are repeated in the subject but not in visual approach, need to be recreated time after time instilling new energy into the subject,” Kessler says. “This year’s Hanukkah stamp is the first time we are showing kids lighting the menorah. It is very much of a family holiday and I am amazed that I never pursued this direction before.”
Art director Antonio Alcalá used original artwork from artist Andrea Pippins to create this year’s new Kwanzaa stamps. Pippins told us that she used the words 'reflection' and 'celebration' as inspiration for the new designs. “In Kwanzaa related imagery we typically see a family celebrating, which is important, but I also wanted to show how the individual might use the holiday to celebrate and reflect upon the different principles and how they relate to our everyday life,” she says. She also explained that as a female designer of color, she offers a different perspective to the canon of design, while providing an opportunity to tell stories that are often overlooked. “It's very meaningful to me to think that this tiny piece of art, possibly the smallest physical thing I might ever illustrate, could inspire people to celebrate and honor a holiday in some way."
This set of bold Christmas stamps were created by illustrator Kirsten Ulve with the help of art director Antonio Alcalá. Ulve used the traditional red and green color scheme to depict an ornament, tree, stocking, and reindeer in a modern graphic style that was inspired by traditional Scandanavian folk art.
Kessler worked with artist Jing Jing Tsong to design this year’s new Hanukkah stamp, which features a child lighting the candles on a mjenorah. Tsong told us that the idea of witnessing holidays through a child’s perspective was her inspiration for the art. “The feelings of wonder, joy, and knowing you are part of traditions connecting family and community through time—that is magic,” she says. She also acknowledged that the Hanukkah designs aren’t updated as frequently as Christmas, and she says she was excited to be part of bringing a fresh design to life. “Communities are stronger when we know our neighbors. But we can not get to know our neighbors unless we make an effort to learn and recognize different traditions,” she says.
This new Christmas stamp features the 18th century Peruvian painting “Our Lady of Guápulo," which depicts the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child. The painting is currently on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and while the original artist is unknown, art director Greg Breeding worked to create a detail of the painting that fit on the small stamp.
For those who don’t identify with a religious winter holiday but still want to celebrate the season, the USPS is also releasing a set of gorgeous winter scenes. The 10 new designs feature photography from a variety of photographers who perfectly captured the snowy scenes from the northern United States. Art director Derry Noyes worked with photographers to design and curate this set of cheery winter stamps.