On 24 October, Posta Faroe Islands released two stamps picturing an Advent wreath and a Christmas tree along with a sheet of 15 Christmas seals in its annual Yuletide philatelic celebration. Posta also offers a wide range of other Christmas products including cards and baubles as well as the usual sheets, first day covers and maximum cards.
The stamps were designed by Heiðrik á Heygum and printed using offset lithography by Bpost of Belgium. They measure 30 x 40mm and were issued in sheets of 20 stamps for each design and a booklet of six stamps, three of each design. The denominations are 19,00 and 29,00 DKK for use on letters up to 100 grams for inland and abroad postage, respectively.
The Advent Wreath
The first candle in the Advent wreath is lit on the first Sunday in Advent. On the second Sunday of Advent, two candles are lit – three on the third – and finally, on the fourth Sunday of Advent, all four candles have been lit. This is a beautiful and relevant tradition, where the number of candles increase in step with the growing darkness of winter, culminating around winter solstice and Christmas.
However, the Advent wreath tradition is not as old as one might think. It is attributed to the German theologian Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808-1881), the founder of the Inner Mission, who, in addition to his missionary work, performed social work among the poor and vulnerable in urban environments in Germany.
When the children in “Rauhes Haus”, the Mission School in Hamburg, persistently asked how many days there were left to Christmas, Wichern put four large white candles on an old wagon wheel and placed 20 smaller red candles in between. The large candles symbolized the four Advent Sundays before Christmas – and the small ones the weekdays in between. This became a school tradition and in 1860 J. H. Wichern started covering the wheel with spruce twigs – reportedly because they reminded him of the crown of thorns on Christ the crucified.
The custom spread in Germany and beyond its borders. The Advent wreath became common in Denmark during World War II and from there the custom probably arrived in the Faroe Islands.
The Christmas Tree
One of the most iconic Christmas traditions is the decorated Christmas tree – most often the evergreen spruce, which is placed in the living room and embellished with the family’s Christmas decorations – candles, braided hearts, paper cones, coloured balls, stars and maybe a few angels and angel hair, usually with a large star at the top – the Tree of Life, as it were, crowned by the Star of Bethlehem.
Just like the Advent wreath, the tradition of the Christmas tree in its present form originates in Germany. Artisans’ guilds in Germany began arranging Christmas parties for children in the 16th century, possibly with an eye on older traditions. The centrepiece of the party was a decorated spruce tree with gifts for the children. The custom spread and soon the bourgeoisie began placing a decorated Christmas trees in their living rooms during the festive season. In 1632, a mention of lighted candles on Christmas trees can be found for the first time in a written source – a custom which is still retained and revered. However, due to the peril of fire lighted candles have been replaced with electric light sources.
The Christmas tree spread its branches beyond Germany’s borders. According to sources the first Danish Christmas tree was probably introduced in 1808 at the Holsteinsborg estate in South Zealand. The custom spread among the clergy and bourgeoisie in the 19th century and was disseminated widely around World War I.
In the Faroe Islands, the first Christmas tree reportedly found its way to the Sandagerð Rectory in Tórshavn, just before the turn of the 20th century. Here, too, the custom slowly spread among the clergy and the bourgeoisie, perhaps especially among Danish officials in Tórshavn. In an advertisement in the newspaper “Dimmalætting” in 1912, the florist Trond-Hansen offers Christmas trees for sale at 35 øre pr. tree.
During World War II, it became difficult to obtain Christmas trees, so people had to use their imagination. Artificial Christmas trees, composed of various items, fallen branches and other available material, were commonly used. Only after the war in the 50’s, the Christmas tree tradition had a breakthrough among the general population.
Anker Eli Petersen
This year’s Christmas stamps depict the Advent wreath (19KR) and the Christmas tree (29KR), respectively, both with lit candles. The artist, Heiðrik á Heygum, explains his inspiration for the motifs:
“I received a request to design two Christmas stamps inspired by the story of the Faroese Advent wreath and the Christmas tree. The Christmas tree and the Advent wreath are relatively recent traditions in the Faroe Islands, almost as fresh to us as the Faroese visual arts.
The Faroese embraced these beautiful Christmas traditions – the Advent wreath around the 1940’s and the Christmas tree in the early 1900’s. A few years later, Faroese visual art began to flourish in earnest. Artists such as William Heinesen and Elinborg Lützen attracted attention and have immensely influenced Faroese visual identity. All Faroese have grown up and become thoroughly acquainted with their two-dimensional illustrations of Faroese legends and adventures in clips and prints.
Christmastide is a traditional, reflective and nostalgic celebration and very close to our hearts. Therefore, I thought it would be appropriate to depict our Christmas traditions in a traditional way, while also paying tribute to William’s and Elinborg’s visual styles.”
Heiðrik á Heygum
Booklet of 6 Stamps
First Day Covers
This year’s sheet of Christmas Seals is a collage consisting of historical images, drawings and graphics quirkily describing the classic Christmas game of Jólaleikur. Released on 24 October, the sheet of 15 seals was designed by Bárður Dal Christiansen. It was printed using offset lithography by Cartor Security Printers in France and measures 165 x 130 mm. Each individual seal measures 30.34 x 35 mm.
Bárður Dal Christiansen is the artist behind this year’s Christmas Seals titled “Jólaleikur_v.22a” (Christmas Game). Jólaleikur is a collage consisting of historical images, drawings and graphics quirkily describing the classic Christmas game.
Bárður is one of our most active artists. He exhibits regularly in the Faroe Islands and around the world. Bárður works mostly with figurative painting, drawing, linoleum cuts and graphics. Bárður also works as an architect and is the founder of the art project “Gøtulist“, which among other things works with Street Art, urban art and building decorations.
The profit from the Christmas Seals sale goes to the Faroese Christmas Stamp Fund, which aims to provide support for various initiatives for children and young people in the Faroe Islands.
Time flies by like megabytes in a LAN cable. We are where it seeps from the future into the past. We download culture, knowledge and traditions from the cloud drifting ahead of us, like rapid breakwaters from the digital world and into our abstract, analog world.
Christmas clips, mouse clicks, burnt CDs and almonds tell us that the Holiday Season is approaching and that we are joining via 5G and the fiber-optic network in the Faroe Islands. It is 2022 years since our Saviour was born in the world, and we rejoice in this time of fellowship, swipes, and song.
The star lights up like an 8K screen on the beautiful green Christmas tree and reminds us to be grateful for the past year and rejoice in what the universe has in store.
Bárður Dal Christiansen
Christmas Cards 2022
Posta Stamps also issues three double Christmas cards with illustrations from the Christmas Seals designed by Faroese artist, Bárður Dal Christiansen.
The cards are sold with envelopes in sets of three.
Christmas Baubles 2022
Charming Christmas baubles illustrating traditional Faroese knitting patterns.
Box of 6 charming Christmas baubles illustrating traditional Faroese knitting patterns which were originally used for women’s’ and men’s’ sweaters.
The patterns are from the book ”Føroysk bindingarmynstur” published for the first time in 1932 by Hans M. Debes who collected traditional knitting patterns around the islands. Traditionally, each village and farm had its own knitting pattern.
The Christmas baubles are produced in papier mâché. They measure 70 mm. The baubles come in a quality gift box of our own design. The baubles have a red ribbon and are ready to hang straight onto the Christmas tree.
- Light weight papier mâché
- Red ribbon for hanging
- Illustrations from the Faroese book ”Føroysk bindingarmynstur”
- Box set of 6 x 70mm baubles