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Posting a picture of Christmas scenes all around the world; As millions of youngsters wait expectantly for Santa's imminent visit, Harry Hawkes looks at Christmas stamps from around the world.

Byline: Harry Hawkes

Beautiful designs this Christmas are superb stamps reproducing magnificent paintings by Titian and Velazquez.

In the Isle of Man Manx men will wish you 'Nollic Ghennal Errui as blein Ffer vie'.

In Paris it is 'Un Joyeux Noel' and in Berlin 'Frohe Weihnachten'. Elsewhere it could be Boas Festas, Salom Mesra, Felices Fiestas, Safari Njema or Hepi Krismas.

One of the most popular themes for special Christmas stamp designs this year is children with the Isle of Man postal authority dedicating all five of its Christmas stamps to the work of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and its Full Stop campaign to put an end to all cruelty to children.

Centred around the NSPCC vision of 'a society where all children are loved, valued and able to fulfil their potential' the stamps feature happy children surrounded by stars, designs which were specially drawn by NSPCC official artist, Richard Wetherill.

Most holidaymakers think of Jersey and Guernsey as parts of Britain which are warm, sunny and relaxing. But the Christmas 2000 postage stamps for Guernsey may well shatter many illusions.

Six stamps show various parts of Guernsey dark, dismal, gloomy and covered in several inches of snow, in fact just like being at home in the Midlands where one might expect it. I cannot think the tourist board will be overjoyed with such impressions which are, I hasten to add, paintings not photographs.

A Guernsey Post Office spokesman said: 'Falls of snow are relatively rare on the island which does enjoy particularly mild winter weather on the whole. However, every few years we do get an occasional fall which brings a short spell 'whiteover' similar to the idyllic scenes on the latest stamps.

The stamps with denominations of 18p, 26p, 36p, 40p, 45p and 65p have been designed by Gill Bown. A close scrutiny using a magnifying glass will reveal toboggans, a snowman and carol singers in the background.

Neighbouring Channel Island, Jersey, highlights children with four stamps, 22p, 26p, 36p, and 65p showing kiddies in a traditional Nativity play. They are dressed as a shepherd, angel, Magi and the Virgin Mary. Designer Frank Venton has sought to capture the expressions of awe and wonderment of the youngsters.

An attractive six stamp set from Gibraltar also features the Nativity which commemorates the 2000th anniversary of Jesus' birth. The stamps show baby Jesus (5p), Mary and Jesus (30p), Joseph walking besides an ass on which the expectant Mary rides into Bethlehem (30p) and the Innkeeper telling Joseph and Mary there was no room at the inn (40p).

Joseph, Mary and their newborn child in the stable (42p) and the three wise men arriving with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (54p) complete the set. For lovers of classical art perhaps the most beautiful designs this Christmas are the superb stamps reproducing magnificent paintings by Titian and Velazquez. For collectors of old masters' works on stamps these are unmissable. There are 30c, 80c, 90c, and $1.20c values plus a $6.00 souvenir sheet with Titian's 'Madonna and Child with St Catherine'.

Further details can be obtained from the Nevis Philatelic Bureau, Head Post Office, Nevis, West Indies. (philbur@caribsurf.com is the e-mail address).

Among the other Christmas issues are: Falkland Islands, five Nativity stamps; Bahamas, four showing orchids; St Lucia, four island churches; Cayman Islands, sand, shells and Christmas dinner and Jamaica, four religious paintings.

For postmark collectors, the Royal Mail is operating a special service to enable collectors to obtain a Christmas Day postmark in Birmingham.

Self addressed envelopes bearing sufficient stamps to cover first class return postage, should be mailed to: Midlands Special Handstamp Centre, Royal Mail, St Stephen's Street, Birmingham B6 4AA. Make sure you pencil the back of each envelope with the identification number of the postmark, 6392. The postmark shows a group of carol singers.' Be sure however, that there is no great rush to get them back for the problems with the railways, the volume of Christmas mail and postal workers taking industrial action have all taken their toll. Patience, however, will see you through.

Collecting Diary

For those bored with the telly, trimmings and kids party games, the light relief of several collectors' fairs over the holiday could restore at least partial sanity.

Wednesday brings more than 300 dealers to the popular Antiques and Collectors' Fair at the Coventry City FC training ground The Sports Connexion at Ryton On Dunsmore, near Kenilworth. The fair runs from 9.30am to 4.30pm and is organised by Bob Evans Fairs.

Profile Promotions of Birmingham will be holding an Antique and Collectors' Fair at the National Motorcycle Museum next Friday from 10am to 5pm. The Museum, at the J6 of the M42 is well signposted.

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Special Christmas stamps which have been produced this year for postal administrations around the world Sunshine to snowtime: Rare wintry scenes in Guernsey
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Dec 23, 2000
Words:821
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