Back in the late 1990’s, one of my main collecting specialties was in the stamps and postal history of the Åland Islands, a small group situated between Sweden and Finland. That collection is long gone, but I still pay attention to the territory’s new releases. Åland released a single Christmas stamp on 9 October 2014 entitled “Emma’s Christmas Dream,” designed by Emelie Hage. The press release provides extra details:
“I imagined a parent introducing a child to the Christmas spirit. Quite often, the Little Christmas fair is a rather slushy affair with everyone skidding around in the mud and it is always damp. I remember how my parents stopped to talk to every single person they met and it took forever to get to the toffee …But this is how it looks in my dream”, says Emelie, the artist behind the Christmas stamp as well as the Christmas seals and Christmas decorations in gold plated brass.
Emelie first drew the image and then applied watercolours. On the Christmas seals, the marketers are the central figures, whereas the decorations focus on the merchandise – a toffee, a tin of herrings, a bauble. “I sketched all the motifs at the same time to obtain a certain amount of coherence. Even if I have previously designed stamps for Åland Post, the small format does demand a special approach; for everything to work well you must consider the smallness, a stamp motif is so tiny.”
Finding inspiration was not so easy seeing that Emelie made her research at Jan Karlsgården during high summer. “I shot photos and gathered details, colours and patterns that might prove good to have”.
On her home turf in Stockholm, her friends know little about the Little Christmas phenomenon in Åland and Emelie acts as eager ambassador. That is what happens for someone celebrating Little Christmas abroad.
“Traditions like these become somewhat special and I like to tell my friends about our Åland Little Christmas celebrations. I particularly like the ‘little’ part. A small gift, a small tree and a little food. Unpretentious and enjoyable,” she says.
Hage also designed this year’s Christmas seals for Åland Post. This year, they will donate the profits from the sale of the seals to help increase the number of defibrillators in Åland.
Åland Post’s 2014 Christmas seal donation supports the Åland Defibrillator Project that aims at increasing the knowledge of and improving public access to defibrillators. Initiators of the project are the three associations Folkhälsan in Åland (non-governmental organization in the social welfare and health care sector), Vårt Hjärta (cardiovascular diseases) and Red Cross – Åland district.
“In the case of a sudden cardiac arrest, you have 10 minutes to act at best. The ambulance doesn’t always arrive in time, particularly not in Åland which is divided by a cobweb of water”, project administrator Gunilla G. Nordlund says.
Anyone may suffer a sudden cardiac arrest, men and women of all ages alike. The use of defibrillator combined with CPR saves lives. Anyone can use a defibrillator. It tells you what to do and registers the cardiac activity of the patient, administering electric shocks to the heart to make it start beating again. Since the start in April 2013, the Åland Defibrillator Project has created a record of defibrillator locations which is also registered at the public-safety answering point.
Behind this year’s Christmas seals we see artist Emelie Hage who has featured four different types of marketers at the Jan Karlsgården Little Christmas fair. The choice to support the Åland Defibrillator Project was easy for Åland Post.
“There was a concrete purpose – to purchase a number of defibrillators to increase public access hence safeguarding more lives”, says Anita Häggblom, director of Åland Post Stamps.
The donation deriving from the sale of Christmas seals will be directly invested in defibrillators.
“We can mention many places where defibrillators are needed. This donation is a valuable support in this purpose”, Gunilla G. Nordlund says.
I also used to specialize in the stamps of Faroe Islands which are situated somewhat north of Scotland. They have released several Christmas stamps this year including this pair designed by Edward Fuglø and depict two scenes from the Bible that are connected with Christmas, picturing angels and shepherds.
As on the previous stamps in this series, the artist Edward Fuglø has managed to delicately and in great detail convey the communication between eternity and time. The star from above is still regarded as a symbol of the transcendental reality, God’s light and guidance in the midst of meaninglessness, injustice and futile daily drudgery. The angels descended from the starlit skies, and the herdsmen are therefore gazing upwards.
Thus, the angels symbolise the cosmic communication between the Creator and humankind. A communication with prayer and meditation on the cosmic internet, which people cannot do without if we are to live in harmony with the Creator and the message: “It must be for all people.”
The shepherds that can be seen on the second stamp are an important symbol of every Christmas. They possessed the necessary consciousness of God which is demanded by the cycle of nature, and which made them capable of hearing the Creator’s message. Nature itself had always been a reminder of the creative power in all things; the never-ending cycle of life had also awakened a deep yearning for eternal values.
Life itself had strengthened the sense that their day-to-day work – of tending their livestock, the pastures and their families – was part of a bigger picture. Now, the joy and the peace extended beyond the shepherds, and the whole of humanity could be saved from meaninglessness, injustice and suffering.
Additional Christmas stamps released this year by Faroe Islands depict two Santa figures that all children – and adults – in the Faroes know from the national children’s radio programs: Greytasleikur (Porridge Lover) and Kertustubbi (Candle Stump).
Every Christmas, children can call in and talk with them on Christmas Eve morning and in the afternoon they are part of the Christmas party at the radio station that is broadcast “live”.
These two Santa figures live in Skeivahelli (the Crooked Cave) together with the old grey tomcat called Halaleysi (the Tailless).
Greytasleikur and Kertustubbi are like all other Santa figures – friendly and cheerful – and they make many funny faces when talking to the excited children.
On the Christmas stamps, the Santa figures preparing for Christmas as they play and frolic in the snow can be seen. They have much to prepare, including testing the old Macaroni radio transmitter to make sure that it works on Christmas Eve.
Regardless of your religious affiliation or the manner in which you celebrate (if at all) the Christmas season, I hope you are enjoying a look at the beautiful art created on these bits of paper we call postage stamps. If you would like to spread a little holiday cheer and send me a postcard or letter with a nice Christmas stamp affixed, I’d be very appreciative. My mailing address can be found below.
8/1 Suthas Soi 2
T. Talat Yai
A. Muang Phuket