|Date of Issue
|November 19, 2014
First-Class Mail, Forever, 49 Cents
|Perforation or Dimension
|0.91 x 1.19 in./23.11 x 30.23 mm
|Washington, DC 20066
On November 19, 2014, in Washington, DC, the U.S. Postal Service® will issue the Christmas Magi stamp (Forever priced at 49 cents), in one design, in a pressure-sensitive (PSA) Booklet of 20 stamps.
The stamp will go on sale nationwide November 19, 2014. The U.S. Postal Service® celebrates one of the most beloved stories of the Nativity with an evocative and elegant new stamp, Christmas Magi.
The stamp art illustrates the traditional tale of the Magi, who came bearing gifts for Jesus. The three regal figures sit atop a trio of bedecked and harnessed camels, the animals almost at the summit of a small hill. Guiding them is a large, dazzling star shining in the sky. The colors in the sky range from a rose near the horizon, darkening to a rich purple at the top, suggesting that the travelers are moving through the desert at dawn. The figures are silhouetted against the background, with the details of their headdresses and the camels’ saddles just visible in the brightening light. The star, located in the upper left-hand corner of the picture, is a brilliant white.
The story of the Magi appears in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 2. There is little detail about the Magi in the Gospel. Matthew called them "Magi," a term for Persian priests, astrologers, or scholars. The Gospel never refers to a specific number; the number three was likely influenced by the number of gifts left for the child-gold, frankincense, and myrrh. However, the earliest traditions are inconsistent with regard to how many Magi there were. The Eastern tradition favored twelve Magi, while in the West, several early Church fathers accepted the number three.
Over the centuries other details have been added to the story, including the names of the Magi: Gaspar, or Casper; Melchior; and Balthasar. One early reference to their names comes in a seventh century work attributed to St. Bede. He gave the Magi the attributes of men at different stages of life, elderly, young, and middle-aged: Melchior, an old man with white hair and a long beard; Caspar, young and beardless with a ruddy complexion; and Balthasar, with black skin and a heavy beard. Later traditions added the notion that the three came from Europe, Asia, and Africa, thus completing their symbolism as representatives of the world as it was known to Europeans at the time.
Represented in art and music since the earliest centuries of the church, the Magi are a much-loved part of the Christmas tradition. The story is retold many times each season in hymns and in Christmas pageants and performances.
Art director Greg Breeding designed the stamp; Nancy Stahl was the artist.