Birds of Christmas: The Stamps

2006 December 23
by David J. Ringer

GREENE CO., MO. — Part three of a series in which I set out explore some of the ways that birds help us celebrate Christmas.


Nothing says Christmas quite like a cardinal, particularly when he’s matched with an evergreen and some snow. Sure enough, the USPS released a stylized portrait of North America’s beloved “redbird” on a holiday stamp in 1994 (more on the stamp).


I believe the dove from George Washington’s weather vane was the first bird to be featured on a US Christmas stamp. This 1974 issue made history in another way as well: It was the first self-adhesive US stamp (more on the stamp).


Ah yes, where would we be without the partridge in the pear tree? Despite the extravagant tail feathers, the bird in this painting looks like a Chukar (Alectoris chukar) to me. Chris Gibbins, of the fabulous, also calls it a Chukar (more on the stamp).


Wait, is that a bird the child is holding in the painting (more on the stamp)?


Yes, and here’s another depiction of the Christ child holding a bird. Intrigued by the apparent symbolism, I did some research tonight and discovered that in religious art, the European Goldfinch foreshadows Christ’s Passion because of its fondness for spiny thistles. The bird can be seen more clearly on this page: Madonna of the Goldfinch (more on the stamp).


Peruvian artist Ignacio Chacón is credited with Madonna and Child with Bird, the painting featured on this year’s traditional Christmas stamp. According to the USPS, Chacón’s use of the bird in this image drew on ancient Inca beliefs to indicate divinity.

Related posts:

  1. Birds of Christmas: The Tree
  2. Birds of Christmas: The Cards
  3. Birds of Christmas: The Crèche
  4. Merry Christmas!
  5. Birds of Christmas: The Carols
2 Responses
  1. tank permalink
    December 24, 2006

    I like your Christmas birds posts.

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