The Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev John Mann, has officially launched Royal Mail’s Christmas stamps for 2011.
The new stamps, issued on November 8, feature scenes inspired by the Nativity. Mary and baby Jesus appear on the 1st Class stamp and Joseph being visited by the Angel on the 2nd Class stamp.
The stamps will adorn millions of cards and letters sharing Christmas greetings between friends and family in the UK and overseas. This festive season, Royal Mail anticipates handling around two billion items.
The Christmas stamps – seen in total – are inspired by verses from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and recognise that 2011 is the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.
Officially launching the stamps at St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, Dean Mann said: “The Christmas stamps this year are both beautiful and meaningful. The sense of communication between God and humanity, between the angel and Joseph and the Shepherds, is expressed in gesture as well as atmosphere.
“The words of St Matthew and St Luke are brought to life as Mary beholds the baby Jesus and the wise men gaze with searching eyes at the star.
“They are a glorious set of stamps and it will be a joy to use them.”
Barbara Roulston from Royal Mail said: “Christmas stamps help deliver festive messages of good cheer and celebration, not only in the UK but also around the world. This year’s stamps feature scenes from the Nativity, together with the gospel references from the King James Bible which inspired them.”
The 1st and 2nd Class stamps are available in two sizes: a standard version for regular letters and a ‘large letter’ version for larger cards and mail. Three other Christmas stamps depict Baby Jesus in the manger (68p stamp), the shepherds being visited by the Angel (£1.10) and the wise men and star (£1.65).
Royal Mail is encouraging customers to post their festive greetings early, and order their online gifts and shopping well in advance, to help its postmen and women deliver the bumper festive mailbag.
Its latest recommended posting dates for mail to arrive in time for Christmas are:
Posting dates for delivery within the UK:
• 1st Class Tuesday: December 20
• 2nd Class Saturday: December 17
• Special Delivery: Thursday December 22
Posting dates for international mail:
• Airmail to South and Central America, Caribbean, Africa, Middle East, Far East (except Japan), Asia, New Zealand and Australia: Monday December 5
• Airmail to Japan, USA, Canada and Eastern Europe: Friday December 9
• Airmail to Western Europe: Monday December 12.