It felt funny asking on a record-tying 87-degree day, but when I went to mail a package earlier this week, I couldn’t help myself.
“When will you be receiving Christmas stamps?”
“We’ve been getting that question a lot,” the cashier told me. “It’ll be around Oct. 15.”
When I saw her motioning toward a poster featuring this year’s Christmas stamps, I checked it out, eager to explore my options. (Not all stamps are created equal, you know.)
“The ornaments are kind of cute,” she said. “They’re calling them ‘holiday baubles.’ Not Christmas ornaments.”
I could hear the exasperation in her voice, and we shared a chuckle over the ridiculousness of that name.
“That whole PC thing drives me nut,” she confessed.
Back home, I checked them out online. Sure enough: “Holiday Baubles,” with a description that pulled off some verbal gymnastics in order to avoid the C-word:
These festive Holiday Baubles (Forever®) stamps feature four colorful ornaments sure to add to the joys of the holiday season. These baubles may also inspire fond memories of beloved tree ornaments from childhood-objects that still have the power to enchant us today.
While styles from the 1950s inspired the ornaments depicted in the stamp art, sincere wishes for happy holidays never go out of fashion. These stamps offer a fashionably “retro” way to enhance the season’s greetings.
But I am grateful for the Madonna and Child stamp, which the U.S. Postal Service has been featuring as its “traditional Christmas stamp” since 1978. I take a pride in using such distinctly Catholic stamps.
I love the “Madonna and Sleeping Child by Sassoferrato” the Postal Service has offered the last two years – it depicts such a warm, loving embrace with that golden glow – but the Madonna and Child post offices will sell this year is “Madonna of the Candelabra by Raphael.” It’s colder and not as tender, but I suppose it was time to mix it up, and I do appreciate the description of the painting, which was produced in the Vatican City because of a papal commission:
The artist known to posterity as Raphael had it all — he was talented, handsome, and even-tempered. At a very young age, he became a great master of the Italian High Renaissance. A detail from his painting, Madonna of the Candelabra, showing the Madonna and Child, is the traditional Christmas stamp for 2011.
He was born Raffaello Sanzio in the city of Urbino in 1483, where his father taught him to paint. He was being called a “master” artist while still in his teens. Drawn by the reputations of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he went to Florence as a young man to soak up that city’s learning.
In 1508, Raphael was summoned by Pope Julius II to Rome, where he spent the last dozen years of his short life in an inspired burst of activity. The masterpieces he produced there include the painting reproduced on this stamp, Madonna of the Candelabra by Raphael (Forever®), dating to around 1513.
Raphael ran a large and active workshop. Assistants certainly painted the angels (not shown in the stamp art) flanking the central figures in Madonna of the Candelabra, and possibly other parts. This tondo (circular painting), oil on panel, is now in the collection of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.
And when it comes to Catholic stamps, I’m still very pleased the Postal Service dedicated a Mother Teresa stamp last September. I loaded up when they arrived at our local post office and felt a little lift every time I peeled one off, picturing her joyful, creased smile paving the path for my mail, greeting carriers and recipients as only she can.
I’ll choose to focus on our postage victories, but I refuse to call Christmas ornaments “holiday baubles.” Are you with me?