Christmas Stamps 2022: Brazil

On October 31, Correios released a single-stamp souvenir sheet as its issue for Christmas 2022. The main design element is the Star of Bethlehem, from which positive words emanate. The figures represent the diversity of peoples, ages and gender and are looking directly at the Christmas Star, symbolizing the hope and feeling of brotherhood that the holiday represents. A globe is featured in the background, bringing the idea that the Christmas feeling permeates the entire planet, being illuminated by the Christmas Star. The artwork was created by Adriana Shibata using computer graphics. The sheets were printed by the Brazilian Mint in a quantity of 15,000 using offset lithography with a UV glitter varnish and gold hot-stamping on chalky paper. The face value is the 5th class rate for domestic mail, equal to 6.50 Brazilian reals on the date of issue. The souvenir sheet measures 70 x 110 mm while the stamp is 25 x 59 mm with perforations of 12 x 11.5.

According to Correios Brasil’s information pamblet for this issue,

From “little angel eyes that watch over our sleep at night” to “great spheres of plasma, held in place by their own gravity,” whether the explanation fits a 3-year-old child or a researcher, the fact is that stars have always fascinated us.

Anyone who has ever been lucky enough to contemplate a starry sky, typical of those nights when it is possible to see even the path of spilled milk traced in the sky by the constellations that form the Milky Way, can understand how wonderful it feels to be covered by a dark mantle sprinkled with bright spots. Science estimates that the Milky Way alone contains between 200 and 400 billion stars.

Even in our most primordial age, we learned to use the stars, as well as other elements, to describe our beliefs and feelings. We can turn to Carl Jung’s concept of archetypes, which show that mankind has created similar meanings for certain natural elements, regardless of the time in which they lived, culture and religion they followed.

In Judaism, the hexagram that forms the Star of David represents the union between Heaven and Earth and is understood as a sign of protection; in other words, it represents the shield of David. To the gypsies, the star, besides protection, also means guidance and healing. The belief that something beyond our logical reasoning is leading us safely to a better destiny.

In Christianity, the star became one of the most emblematic symbols of Christmas when it miraculously pointed the way for Gaspar, Balthazar and Melchior, the three wise men, to the manger of the baby Jesus.

In all civilizations, the stars have always been among the most useful natural elements as a location tool, pointing the way to get where you plan to go. Orienting themselves by the constellations, since ancient times, navigators have crosses oceans and discovered new worlds, expanding the limits of the planet and enriching knowledge about humanity. The North Star in the northern hemisphere and the Southern Cross constellation in the southern hemisphere serve us to this day as route references, showing the correct directions of the cardinal points.

Whether in antiquity or in the century of modernity, the stars continue to be a source of wonder. Doing a parallel with our world of figurative senses, we can say that stars are not only about shining, but also about spreading light, illuminating. It is no coincidence that “estrela”, the Portuguese word for star, has an etymological origin in the word “espelhar”, which means reflect.

In the quest to recall the meanings of the most iconic Christmas symbol, Correios has chosen the Christmas star as the main theme of this year’s postage stamp. A star that embraces all its meanings: the one that shines, that brings beauty and charm to our gaze in the sky, that renews our faith, and that guides us and shows us the paths we must follow. Christmas is rebirth, a time to bring out the best in each of us, to look at the other, to reflect. The Christmas star is the greatest symbol of hope for a better world.

–Correios Brazil

The Star of Bethlehem, or Christmas Star, appears in the nativity story of the Gospel of Matthew chapter 2 where “wise men from the East” (Magi) are inspired by the star to travel to Jerusalem. There, they meet King Herod of Judea, and ask him:

Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.

Herod calls together his scribes and priests who, quoting a verse from the Book of Micah, interpret it as a prophecy that the Jewish Messiah would be born in Bethlehem to the south of Jerusalem. Secretly intending to find and kill the Messiah in order to preserve his own kingship, Herod invites the wise men to return to him on their way home.

The star leads them to Jesus’ Bethlehem birthplace, where they worship him and give him gifts. The wise men are then given a divine warning not to return to Herod, so they return home by a different route.

Adoration of the Magi, by Jean Fouquet (15th century). The Star of Bethlehem can be seen in the top right. The soldiers and castle in the background may represent the Battle of Castillon (1453).

Many Christians believe the star was a miraculous sign. Some theologians claimed that the star fulfilled a prophecy, known as the Star Prophecy. Astronomers have made several attempts to link the star to unusual celestial events, such as a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn or Jupiter and Venus, a comet, or a supernova. Some modern scholars do not consider the story to be describing a historical event but a pious fiction created by the author of the Gospel of Matthew.

The subject is a favorite at planetarium shows during the Christmas season. However, most ancient sources and Church tradition generally indicate that the wise men visited Bethlehem sometime after Jesus’ birth. The visit is traditionally celebrated on Epiphany (January 6) in Western Christianity.

The account in the Gospel of Matthew describes Jesus with the broader Greek word παιδίον, paidion, which can mean either “infant” or “child” rather than the more specific word for infant, βρέφος, bréphos. This possibly implies that some time has passed since the birth. However, the word παιδίον, paidíon is also used in the Gospel of Luke specifically concerning Jesus’ birth and his later presentation at the temple. Herod I has all male Hebrew babies in the area up to age two killed in the Massacre of the Innocents.

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