Christmas Stamps 2022: Germany

On November 2, Deutsche Post released the two designs for Germany’s 2022 Christmas stamps, each in perforated gummed and self-adhesive varieties. Prof. Annette Le Fort and Prof. André Heers designed the religious stamp, with the legend “The Message of the Angels: I Announce to You a Great Joy”, while the secular stamp — “Winter Forest” — was designed by Thomas Steinacker. The latter is a regular postage stamp bearing a denomination of 85 euro cents while the religious stamp in a semi-postal with a surcharge of 40 euro cents added to the 85 euro cent postage value. The gummed religious stamps were printed by offset lithography at Bundesdruckerei GmbH, Berlin, on coated white and fluorescent postage stamp paper DP II in panes of 10. The secular stamps were printed by Bagel Security-Print GmbH & Co. KG, Mönchengladbach. The gummed stamps are all comb perforated 13¾ x 14 and the self-adhesives die-cut 10¼ x 10. The gummed angel stamp measures 46.5 x 34.75 mm (full pane at 113 x 193 mm) while the self-adhesive is also 119 x 193 (pane measures 119 x 193 mm). The snowy trees stamp is 55 x 30 mm in regular gummed form (full pane measures 130 x 170 mm) with the self-adhesive version measuring the same 55 x 30 mm (pane at 119 x 193 mm).

The “Message of the Angels” design incorporates a portion of the painting Annunciation to the Shepherds painting “Annunciation to the Shepherds” (oil on panel, 54 x 69 cm) probably created before 1450 by the Italian artist Ansano di Pietro Mencio (1406-1481), who became known as Sano di Pietro and belonged to the Quattrocento, i.e. the Italian early Renaissance, and the School of Siena. The angel in the center of the painting seems to shine. Even against the bright background of the stamp, it still attracts all the attention and seems detached from space and time. The stamp design uses a template copyright by akg-images GmbH and Rabatti & Domingie. The stamp focuses on the Annunciation to the Shepherds, one of the central events in the Gospel of Luke of the New Testament. With the words “I proclaim to you a great joy”, an angel brings God’s message that he is now drawing close to people and bringing the longed-for peace.

The annunciation to the shepherds is an episode in the Nativity of Jesus described in the Bible in Luke 2, in which angels tell a group of shepherds about the birth of Jesus. It is a common subject of Christian art and of Christmas carols. As described in verses 8–20 of the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke, shepherds were tending their flocks out in the countryside near Bethlehem, when they were terrified by the appearance of an angel. The angel explains that he has a message of good news for all people, namely that “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

After this, a great many more angels appear, praising God with the words “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Deciding to do as the angel had said, the shepherds travel to Bethlehem, and find Mary and Joseph and the infant Jesus lying in the manger, just as they had been told. The adoration of the shepherds follows.

The King James Version of the Bible translates the words of the angels differently from modern versions, using the words “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men”. Most Christmas carols reflect this older translation, with “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear”, for example, using the words “Peace on the earth, good will to men, / From Heaven’s all gracious King.”

The Annunciation to the Shepherds
(Die Verkündigung an die Hirten)
Sano di Pietro

Initially depicted only as part of a broader Nativity scene, the annunciation to the shepherds became an independent subject for art in the 9th century, but has remained relatively uncommon as such, except in extended cycles with many scenes. The standard Byzantine depiction, still used in Eastern Orthodox icons to the present, is to show the scene in the background of a Nativity, typically on the right, while the Three Magi approach on the left. This is also very common in the West, though the Magi are very often omitted. For example, the 1485 Adoration of the shepherds scene by Domenico Ghirlandaio includes the annunciation to the shepherds peripherally, in the upper left corner, even though it represents an episode occurring prior to the main scene. Similarly, in the Nativity at Night of Geertgen tot Sint Jans, the annunciation to the shepherds is seen on a hillside through an opening in the stable wall.

Scenes showing the shepherds at the side of the crib are a different subject, formally known as the Adoration of the shepherds. This is very commonly combined with the Adoration of the Magi, which makes for a balanced composition, as the two groups often occupy opposite sides of the image space around the central figures, and fitted with the theological interpretation of the episode, where the two groups represented the peoples of the world between them. This combination is first found in the 6th-century Monza ampullae made in Palestine.

In describing the secular Christmas stamp for 2022, referred to as the “Peaceful Christmas” stamp, Deutsche Post states:

Christmas is celebrated not only by Christians, but also by many non-Christians worldwide, as the feast of love, family and peace. While some follow cherished rituals on Christmas Eve, which classically revolve around the atmospheric decoration of the Christmas tree, eating together with family members and friends, attending a church service and giving presents, others undertake extended journeys over the holidays. This year, the Festival of Peace takes place under the impression of the increasing strife in the world: war and violence, political unrest and crises, displacement and environmental destruction threaten the lives of countless people.

The question arises as to how to deal with man’s universal need for peace on the one hand and the actual state of the world on the other. One possible answer is that peace also begins on a small scale – through tolerance and helpfulness, just action and friendly cooperation. We wish everyone a peaceful Christmas!

The Winter Forest stamps portray a “snowy forest with a special lighting atmosphere” with the design copyrighted by Artnizu on and by designer Thomas Steinacker of Bonn.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.