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01 December 2020

Christmas 2020 — Global Holiday Traditions

Curaçao: Christmas 2020 – Global Holiday Traditions, 1 December 2020. Images from CPost International.

Technical Specifications:

Designer: Andre van Hoop
Face Value of Stamps: 70c, Cat. 1, Cat. 2, 331c, 474c, 739c
Size of Stamps: 33 mm x 22 mm
Perforation: 14 x 131/4
Stamp paper: True White stamp paper
Printing: Offset
Color: CMYK + Spot UV
Printer: Johan Enschede Security Print, Haarlem, The Netherlands

This series is dedicated to the celebration of Christmas by various countries around the world. Christmas Day (Dec. 25) is celebrated religiously by a majority of Christians as well as culturally by many non-Christians and is an integral part of the holidays centered around it. The Christmas celebrations, which in different countries have a mix of pre-Christian, Christian themes and origins, along with the many nationalities that live side by side in Curaçao, which inspired the designer to combine these traditions with a touch of our island.

70c – Paskong Pinoy – Philippines

Christmas in the Philippines (Pasko sa Pilipinas), one of two predominantly Catholic countries in Asia (the other one being East Timor), is one of the biggest holidays in the country. The country celebrates the world’s longest Christmas season with Christmas carols heard as early as September and lasting variously until either Epiphany, the Feast of the Black Nazarene on January 9, or the Feast of the Santo Niño on the third Sunday of January. The official observance by the Catholic Church in the Philippines is from the beginning of the Simbang Gabi on December 16 until the Feast of the Epiphany on the first Sunday after the New Year.

Every Christmas season, Filipino homes and buildings are adorned with star-shaped lanterns, called paról from the Spanish farol, meaning “lantern” or “lamp”. These lanterns represent the Star of Bethlehem that guided the Magi, also known as the Three Kings (Tatlóng Harì). Parol are as beloved and iconic to Filipinos as Christmas trees are to Westerners.

The most common form of the lantern is a 5-pointed star with two “tails” at the lower two tips. Other popular variations are four, eight, and ten-pointed stars, while rarer ones sport six, seven, nine, and more than twelve points. The earliest parols were made from simple materials like bamboo, Japanese rice paper (known as “papél de Hapón“) or crêpe paper, and were lit by a candle or coconut oil lamp. Simple parols can be easily constructed with just ten bamboo sticks, paper, and glue. Present-day parol has endless possible shapes and forms and is made of a variety of materials, such as cellophane, plastic, rope, capiz shell, glass, and even recycled refuse. Parol-making is a folk craft, and many Filipino children often craft them as a school project or for leisure.

Cat. 1 – Krampus – Austria

In Central European folklore, Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic figure described as “half-goat, half-demon”, who, during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved. This contrasts with Saint Nicholas, who rewards the well-behaved with gifts. Krampus is one of the companions of Saint Nicholas in several regions including Austria, Bavaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Northern Italy including South Tyrol and the Trentino, and Slovenia. The origin of the figure is unclear; some folklorists and anthropologists have postulated it as having pre-Christian origins.

In traditional parades and in such events as the Krampuslauf (Krampus run), young men dressed as Krampus participate. Such events occur annually in most Alpine towns. Krampus is featured on holiday greeting cards called Krampuskarten.

Cat. 2 – Yule Lads – Iceland

Icelandic Christmas folklore depicts mountain-dwelling characters and monsters who come to town during Christmas. The stories are directed at children and are used to scare them into good behavior. The folklore includes both mischievous pranksters who leave gifts during the night and monsters who eat disobedient children.

The figures are depicted as living together as a family in a cave and include:

Gryla, a giantess with an appetite for the flesh of mischievous children, who she cooks in a large pot. Her husband Leppaludi is lazy and mostly stays at home in their cave.

The Yule Cat is a huge and vicious cat who lurks about the snowy countryside during Christmas time (Yule) and eats people who have not received any new clothes to wear before Christmas Eve.

The Yule Lads (jólasveinarnir or jólasveinar), also known as Yuletide-lads or Yulemen, originated from Iceland fork tales. Traditional folklore tells that the Yule Lads as the sons of Gryla, who collects bad children and eats them. Gryla dominates various books often defined as a tall, ogre woman that walks around the rural areas. She is big, self-centered, and at times appears to have hooves and horns.

At the start, Yule Lads mainly visited the urban areas but would also visit the countryside. Although Yule Lads were initially 82 in number, in the 1860s, their names and numbers went down to thirteen. The behavior of the Yule Lads also moderated from criminal harassers to fun pranksters over time.

These Christmas-related folk tales first appear around the 17th century and display some variation based on region and age. In modern times these characters have taken on a slightly more benevolent role.

331c – Pohutukawa – New Zealand

Metrosideros excelsa, with common names pohutukawa, New Zealand Christmas tree, New Zealand Christmas bush, and iron tree, is a coastal evergreen tree in the myrtle family, Myrtaceae, that produces a brilliant display of red (or occasionally orange, yellow or white) flowers made up of a mass of stamens. The pohutukawa is one of twelve Metrosideros species endemic to New Zealand. Renowned for its vibrant colour and its ability to survive even perched on rocky, precarious cliffs, it has found an important place in New Zealand culture for its strength and beauty, and is regarded as a chiefly tree (rākau rangatira) by Māori. The blossom of the tree is called kahika.

474c – Gävle Goat — Sweden

The Gävle Goat (Gävlebocken in Swedish) is a traditional Christmas display erected annually at Slottstorget (Castle Square) in central Gävle, Sweden. It is a giant version of a traditional Swedish Yule Goat figure made of straw. It is erected each year by local community groups at the beginning of Advent over a period of two days. It has been the subject of repeated arson attacks, and, despite security measures and the nearby presence of a fire station, the goat has been burned to the ground most years since its first appearance in 1966. As of December 2019, the goat has been damaged 37 times. Burning the goat is illegal and the Court of Appeal stated that the offence should normally carry a 3-month prison sentence as it sentenced a 27-year old man to a suspended sentence and day fines for aggravated property damage in 2018.

Since 1986 two Yule Goats have been built in Gävle: the Gävle Goat by the Southern Merchants and the Yule Goat built by the Natural Science Club of the School of Vasa.

739c – Hallacas – Venezuela

Hallaca is a dish from Venezuela. It consists of corn dough stuffed with a stew of beef, pork, or chicken and other ingredients such as raisins, capers, and olives. Hallacas are folded in plantain leaves, tied with strings, and boiled; The dish is traditionally served during the Christmas season and has several regional variants in Venezuela. It has been described as a national dish of Venezuela but it can be found also in variants. Some speculate it originated from the Orinoquia. A characteristic of the hallaca is the delicate corn dough made with consommé or broth and lard colored with annatto. Hallacas are also commonly consumed in eastern Cuba, parts of Colombia, Ecuador, Aruba, and Curaçao. In Nicaragua is known as “Nacatamal”.

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