Christmas Stamps - Part Two.

The Middle Years:-  1980 - 1999.
      (Page under construction.) 

In 1960 New Zealand began issuing Christmas Stamps each year, stamps with a Christmas theme to celebrate this important season. These stamps were often used on mail being sent to other parts of the world so NZ post usually issues them a few months before Christmas to give time for parcels and postage to reach their destination by Christmas Day.
On this page we pick up the series in 1980 and follow it through 1999 just before the dawn of a new century.

The Evolving Series.
We will continue with the three value Christmas issue for another few years before the series changes again. Each year the lower value depicts a Grand Master painting, the middle value a church building related subject and the higher value a design related to Christmas.

1980  Christmas Issue.
The designs for this issue follows the pattern of previous issues by featuring the traditional grand master painting. The second value shows another historical church while the high value depicts a scene typical of Christmas in New Zealand, a summer picnic.
 10c  - "Madonna and Child with Cherubim" a painting by Andrea della Robbia (15th Century).
25c - St Mary's Anglican Church, New Plymouth, built in 1846. It is probably the oldest stone church still standing in New Zealand and was built five years after the foundation of the tiny New Plymouth settlement.
35c - Christmas picnic scene. As Christmas falls during the summer in New Zealand our festive season is more likely about the beach and picnics rather than the traditional snow of the North Hemisphere.

1981  Christmas Issue.
14c - Old Master.
This stamp features the old master, 'Madonna suckling the Child', by Marco d'Oggiono, the original of which is in the Mackelvie Collection in the Auckland City Art Gallery.
30c - St John's Church, Wakefield.
This Anglican church, built in 1846 on a hillside in the tiny Wakefield settlement, is one of the oldest churches in New Zealand in continuous use.   Reverend C L Reay, resident Minister of Nelson, rode out from Nelson on Sunday, 11 October 1846 to hold service in it for the first time.  Over the years the church has been enlarged and renovated.
40c - A Floral Scene.
This stamp depicts the native plant 'Golden Tainui' which flowers near Christmas time.

The Evolving Series.
While the annual Christmas Issue kept to a 3 stamp issue from 1970 to 1987, from time to time the subjects on the stamps varied slightly. In 1982 the middle stamp returned to show a church window rather than the usual historic church building. Notice the values were changed in this issue too as inflation moved postal rates higher.
1982 Christmas Issue.
18c - "Madonna with Child and Two Angels" - 18c
The original of this Old Master by Piero di Cosimo hangs in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.

35c - Rangiatea Maori Church, Otaki.
This church was inspired by Octavius Hadfield and Te Rauparaha and built in 1848-49.  The main focal points of the church were the window and altar and these are captured on the stamp.  The church was destroyed by fire in 1995.

24c - Surf life-saving.
New Zealand is a world leader in surf life-saving and there are nine district associations that administer the sport throughout the country.  Surf life-saving patrols are an established part of the Christmas scene in the Southern Hemisphere.

1983  Christmas Issue.
In 1983 we return to the 'normal' three stamp issue as has been seen since 1970. But this pattern is not going to last much longer.
 'The Holy Family of the Oak Tree' - 18c
This Old Master painting by Raphael (1483-1520) hangs in the Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain.

St Patrick's Church, Greymouth - 35c
This stamp depicts one of the finest churches on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island. I don't like this stamp I think more could have been done to display the church building better. It appears to be a beautiful building.

The Glory of Christmas - 45c
The Southern Cross, the Star of Bethlehem and Pionsettia flowers are all featured on this stamp. This design was completed by Maurice Conly of Waikanae while the two lower values were done by Michael Wyatt of Queenstown.


1984  Christmas Issue.
The 1984 Christmas stamps featured the usual Old Master painting, a historic church and a scene underlining the special character of the Southern Hemisphere Christmas. Peter Durrant designed the 18c and 35c stamps and Maurice Conly the 45c stamp.
18c - Old Master painting of the "Adoration of the Shepherds" by Lorenzo Di Credi

 Old St Paul's Church, Wellington - 35c
The original design of the church was by Frederick Thatcher, then vicar of the Thorndon parish and also an architect by trade.  St Paul's his largest and the only example of his work in Wellington, was consecrated on 6 June 1866 by Bishop Abraham.  Although the architectural style is early English Gothic, St Paul's exhibits quite a colonial spirit in the warm use of totara, matai, heart rimu and kauri.

'The Joy of Christmas' Bells - 45c
A symbol of happiness, rejoicing and celebration, the bell has been the source of many legends and traditions handed down through the ages.  Today, bells are rung to welcome the spirit of Christmas, and to peal out happiness and a special message.

The Evolving Series.
1985 saw another change in the evolving Christmas Stamp series. Since 1960 a painting or art work by a Grand Master has been featured in the issue. After all these years this was dropped in favour of a three value issue all with the same theme.

1985  Christmas Issue.
Christmas carols have long been a means of celebrating Christmas. In 1985 the first Christmas Carol featured in the annual Christmas issue was 'Silent Night, Holy Night'

 18c - 'Silent Night, Holy Night.'
The nativity scene itself, with all the wonder and peace of the birth of the Holy Child.

40c - 'Silent Night, Holy Night.'
Two shepherds with one sheep and a lamb, accompanied by a small boy reflect the silent holiness of the very first Christmas night.

50c - 'Silent Night, Holy Night.'
The 'heavenly host' proclaiming the glad tidings of Christmas as they may have appeared to the shepherds.


There is an interesting story behind this error. You can see that in both values the word "Christmas" was spelt "Chistmas." This mistake got past

1986  Christmas Issue.
The first three verses of the popular carol, 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' were illustrated on the 1986 Christmas stamps.

 25c -  "On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me, a partridge in a pear tree."

55c - "On the second day of Christmas my true love sent to me, two turtledoves."

65c - "On the third day of Christmas my true love sent to me, three french hens."

25c Red offset on the back.

 1987  Christmas Issue.
The theme of Christmas Carols was continued for the 1987 Christmas Stamp issue but in this case three carols were featured instead of one as on the two previous issues.

 5c - This stamp depicted the carol 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing'.

70c -  This stamp depicted the carol 'Away in a Manger'.

85c -  This stamp depicted the carol 'We Three Kings of Orient Are'.

The Evolving Series.
 After remaining the same for so many years it seems that during the late eighties the Christmas Stamp Series was in a state of change. 1988 became the first year in which 4 values was issued instead of the 'usual' three. The current theme of Christmas Carols was continued with four more carols being featured.

1988  Christmas Issue.

        35c - 'O Come All Ye Faithful'.                             70c - 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing'

80c - 'Ding Dong! Merrily On High'.                                 85c - 'The First Nowell'
Four carols were chosen to be depicted on the New Zealand Christmas stamps for 1988.  Their message of joy and hope was used to portray the deeper meaning of Christmas everywhere.  The carols were:
35c - 'O Come All Ye Faithful'
This carol was written about 1742 by Englishman John Franics Wade, at the Roman Catholic Centre in Douay, France.  In 1841 an Anglican Minister translated the words into English - the lyrics we use today.

70c - 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing'
The original lyrics of this carol were 'Hark!  How all the Welkin Rings' but the first line was changed by George Whitefield.  He disliked the word "welkin" which means the vaults of heaven.

80c - 'Ding Dong! Merrily On High'
Although most religious carols were written in the 17th and 18th centuries, the lively and bright 'Ding Dong!  Merrily on High' was probably a pagan tune adopted by the church.

85c - 'The First Nowell'
The author of the words and composer of 'The First Nowell' are unknown but it was first published in Davies and Gilbert's 'Some Ancient Christmas Carols' in 1823.

1989  Christmas Issue.
A bright shining star was the linking theme for the 1989 Christmas stamps. The 'Star of Bethlehem' was placed above New Zealand scenes in all four stamps.

35c - Child's Bedroom.                             65c - Shepherd.

80c - Boat Harbour.                                     $1.00 - Globe.

The scene through a bedroom window on the 35 cent stamp is of One Tree Hill, Auckland.  A shepherd and his sheep look out over a snow-covered mountain, river and valley in the Southern Apes on the 65 cent stamp. A peaceful boat harbour scene is featured on the 80 cent stamp.  The $1 stamp shows New Zealand on the world globe with the star above in space.

1990  Christmas Issue.
In 1990 the theme for the Christmas issue was angels. I have not been able to find out much about each stamp other than that each depicts a different angel. Most catalogues just list them by value and describe them by the lettering colour. So I have decided to just present them in the same way.

       40c - Angel with Blue Text.                $1.00 - Angel with Green Text.

     $1.50 - Angel with Red Text.                           $1.80 - Angel with Orange Text.
The Evolving Series.
 At this point in this evolving and changing series we see the end of the four value sets and the beginning of larger six value issues. For the next few years the four lowers values were combined to form a larger picture with the two or three higher values being separate images. After that the series settles into a set of six separate gummed stamps and one or two adhesives, issued in coils or booklets, all with a common theme.

1991  Christmas Issue.
This seven value set returns to that well-known theme the Christmas Story.
Block of four 45c stamps.
Featuring Shepherds and 'Wise Men' following 'The Star', Mary and Jesus, and 'Wise Men' bearing gifts. All four stamps link to form one complete design.
65c - The Star.                                 $1.00 - Crown.                                  $1.50 -  Angel.

On this stamp, it is rather hard to work out what went wrong.
It was a large paper crease that caused the doubling of the black and small shitfs of the red and blue. 

1992  Christmas Issue.
Most New Zealanders have grown up with Christmas images imported from the Northern Hemisphere. Warmly clad children building snowmen, roaring fires and holly wreaths adorn our Christmas cards. But the reality of course, is quite different. On the 1992 Christmas stamp issue the theme of 'Christmas in New Zealand' was adopted. On a pictorial block of four 45c stamps, Santa and his reindeer pass over streets dotted with kauri villas. On the three higher values other images of a typical New Zealand Christmas are shown.

Four 45c stamps combined to form a larger scene.
Reindeer; Reindeer and Father Christmas; Christmas tree; and eager Children.

65c - Fireplace with stockings awaiting Santa's visit.
$1.00  - People meeting and greeting outside a Church Building.
$1.50 - Pohutukawa Tree (New Zealand Christmas Tree).

1993  Christmas Issue.
The Christmas Celebration.
This issue looks at another aspect of Christmas, the way we in New Zealand celebrate it today. Each of the items featured in this issue has its own story, its own history. One of them, the Christmas Cracker is the feature of a short story from the NZ Post web site.

45c x 4 - Pohutukawa.
Se tenant block of four 45c stamps featuring presents, Christmas crackers, Christmas pudding, tree decorations, the pohutukawa (New Zealand Christmas tree), and a summery sea dotted with yachts. This stamp was produced in both sheet and booklet form.

 $1.00 - Cracker.       $1.50 - Present.

 The NZ Post web site included this interesting story on its page on this issue:- In fact, we owe it all to a Victorian confectioner's apprentice called Tom Smith - who, back in 1847, made a trip to Paris to gather ideas and seek out new innovations in the confectionery business. Something that caught his eye, and his imagination, was a display in a small shop window of sugared almonds wrapped in small twists of coloured tissue paper. Tom brought this idea back to Britain, and although the public responded well, demand for his 'bon-bons' declined following the Christmas period. So he decided to give them a seasonal touch. First, he added a little message inside each of the wrappers, and then he had the inspiration (while sitting at home in front of a cracking log fire) to put a 'bang' into his bon-bons! It took Tom two years to develop the friction strip that produced the bang.

This is something I have never seen before.
A printer's fingerprint from while the red was still wet.

1994  Christmas Issue.
A set of four stamps set into a miniature sheet, two single stamps and an adhesive stamp from a special Christmas booklet. Each celebrating the things we know and love about Christmas.

 Christmas Miniature sheet featuring four different stamps.
$1.00 - Carol singers, Christmas tree.                      80c - Carol singers.
45c - Children with nativity scene.                   70c - Father, child and nativity.

   $1.50 - Children and candles.              $1.80 - Mother, father and child.

45c - Father Christmas and Christmas tree.
Booklet stamp.

$1.50 Large perforation shift.

The Evolving Series. 
The idea of the four lower values forming a combined picture appears to have been dropped at this point with the series continuing with a set of six separate gummed stamps and one or two adhesives, issued in coils or booklets.

 1995  Christmas Issue.
This year the 1995 Christmas Issue was a huge 8 stamp set. The theme, was stained-glass windows from two church buildings in Christchurch, New Zealand.
 One of the stained-glass windows in St Mary's Anglican Church at Merivale, Christchurch.
The 45c stamp was issued on 1st September along with the rest of the issue. On 2nd October it was replaced with the 40c value due to a postage rate decrease.

70c - Mary.
From St Mary's Anglican Church at Merivale, Christchurch. The theme is Mary during the Annunciation - the Archangel Gabriel's announcement to Mary that she was to give birth to Jesus.

The next four stained-glass windows can be found in The Lady Chapel of St Luke's Anglican Church, Christchurch.
80c - The Adoration of the Shepherds.
$1.00 - Mother and Child.

$1.50 - The Adoration of the Three Wise Men.
$1.80 - The Adoration of Magi.

40c Booklet Stamp.
Church of St John the Evangelist, Cheviot, North Canterbury.

This is a joint in the paper made while the newly made paper was being wound on to a reel. Later when the paper was being cut into sheets, somehow this joint was overlooked. There must have been a column of these across the sheet. 

1996  Christmas Issue.
Each of the stamps in the issue depicted a 'close-up' of a scene from the Christmas story. The designer, Lindy Fisher, Auckland, was inspired for each of these scenes by passages chosen from the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. The stamps were designed in a style similar in appearance to stained glass church windows.

40c - The Leading of the Star. 
"... the star, which they saw in the east, went before them ..." -Matthew 2:9.
70c - The Shepherds' Discovery.
"They went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger" - Luke 2:16.

80c - The Angel's Announcement. 
The angel said to them. "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy ..." - Luke 2:10.

$1.00 - The Nativity.
"She gave birth to her first-born son ..." - Luke 2:7.
$1.50 - The Journey to Bethlehem. 
"Joseph also went up from Galilee ... with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child" - Luke 2:4 and 5.

$1.80 - The Annunication.
Mary said, "Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be me according to your word" - Luke 1:38.

40c - Self-Adhesive Booklet Stamp.
The Adoration of the Magi: "... they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh" - Matthew 2:11.
40c - Self-Adhesive Coil Stamp.
The Heavenly Host Praised God: "Suddenly there was ... a multitude of the heavenly host praising God ..." - Luke 2:13.
1997  Christmas Issue.
In 1814 the small sailing brig 'Active' sailed into the Bay of Islands and landed at Rangihoura Bay, bringing the first missionaries to New Zealand. Samuel Marsden conducted a service for a congregation made up of most of the 35 persons who had arrived with him on the ship 'Active' just three days earlier, as well as the eminent Maori chiefs Ruatara, Korkoro and Hongi, and a group of Ngapuhis.
The 1997 Christmas issue remembers this event with each stamp illustration showing a view of the service, complimented by words from the New Zealand Christmas carol 'Te Harinui' which was written to commemorate this first service event.
40c - The brig 'Active' arriving in New Zealand.
"Not on a snowy night... By star or candle light..."
70c - The Reverend Samuel Marsden preaching the first sermon.
"But on a summer day... Within a quite bay..."

80c - The Reverend meeting Maori worriers.
"The Maori People heard...The great and glorious word..."
$1.00 - Women and children attended the service too.
"The people gathered round... Upon the grassy ground..."

$1.50 - Greet, joining between Maori & Pakeha (White man).
"How in this blessed land... United heart and hand..."
$1.80 - Pohutukawa Tree (New Zealand Christmas Tree) flowers in the bay.
"Te Harinui... Glad tidings of great joy..."

 40c Adhesive - Marsden Cross,
Rangihoura Bay, Bay of Islands.
1998  Christmas Issue.
The design style of the 1998 Christmas stamps was inspired by the 15th century tapestries illustrated in the medieval Books of Hours. Each stamp in this Christmas issue tells part of the Nativity story. The Christmas story, based on the descriptions of the birth of Christ in the gospels of the New Testament, has remained unaltered throughout the ages. 
40c - Virgin Mary and the Messiah.
70c - Shepherds Approach Virgin Mary, Joseph and the Messiah.
80c - Virgin Mary, Joseph and the Messiah.

        $1.00 - One Wise Man.                      $1.50 - Three Wise Men.                    $1.50 - Angel with Shepherds.

40c - Virgin Mary and the Messiah.
The 40c self-adhesive stamp was produced in both stamp booklet and coil format.

1999  Christmas Issue.
God gave His Son; Mary offered herself to carry the child; Joseph gave his love; the angels gave ‘good news of great joy’ to those prepared to listen; the shepherds abandoned their flocks and gave of their time to visit Him; and the Magi travelled to give valuable gifts to the new born King. All of their actions combine to make the Christmas story as we know it possible.

The designs for the stamps revisit the ancient stories, while reflecting the needs of today. They are based on medieval illustration styles – used in manuscripts of the time - but modernised. Six simple shapes reflect commonly used Christmas symbols: the star; a Christmas lily; the arch of a gothic church window; a bell; a Christmas tree; and the crown of kings.

40c - Baby Jesus in the Manger / Star.
80c - Virgin Mary / Christmas Lily.

$1.10 - Joseph & Mary Travel to Bethlehem / Arch.
$1.20 - The Angels Sang / Bell.

$1.50 - The Shepherds Left Their Flocks / Christmas Tree.
$1.80 - The Magi Brought Gifts / Crown.

40c - Baby Jesus in the Manger / Star - Self Adhesive.
The 40c self-adhesive stamp was produced in both stamp booklet and coil format.

Some of the images in this post were used with permission from the illustrated catalogue of StampsNZ.
You can visit their web site and On-line Catalogue at,

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