Show Us Your Baubles!

What better way to get into the spirit of the holiday season than by creating your very own holiday bauble stamp? Share your design with us and you could win a collectible 2011 Stamp Yearbook! Submit your design(s) any time between now and midnight on Sunday, December 18. We’ll choose five finalists, and you’ll vote for the winner next week. The winner will be announced on Friday, December 23. We can’t wait to see what you come up with, so get creating! For full contest details, visit the .

Winter Holidays: Stocking Up on Stamps

It’s December 1 everyone, and the winter holidays are coming fast. Are you prepared? Well, we’re here all month to help you. Today let’s kick off the holiday season with some basics: stamps!

This year Hanukkah begins on December 20, and if you plan to send cards you have a few stamp options. The 2011 Hanukkah stamp was created by graphic designer Suzanne Kleinwaks. Bright colors express the joyful spirit of the holiday, and the eight shapes behind the letters spelling out “Hanukkah” symbolize the eight days and nights of the celebration. The 2010 Hanukkah stamp, which was first issued in 2009, features a photograph of a menorah with nine lit candles. The menorah was designed by Lisa Regan of the Garden Deva Sculpture Company in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and photographed by Ira Wexler. There are also two Custom Postage stamps available: Hanukkah Candles and Vintage Jewish Art.

Traditional Christmas stamps are popular, and this year there is quite a wonderful selection to choose from. The 2011 traditional Christmas stamp features a detail from a work by the Italian master Raphael, entitled Madonna of the Candelabra. This tondo (circular painting), oil on panel, dates to around 1513 and is now in the collection of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. Also available is this stamp featuring Madonna and Sleeping Child, a painting by Italian artist Giovanni Battista Salvi, more commonly known as Sassoferrato. The painting is currently in the collection of Hearst Castle in California. The original issuance of the stamp in 2009 coincided with the 400th anniversary of the birth of the artist. The 2010 Angel with Lute stamp features a detail of a fragment of a circa-1480 fresco by Melozzo da Forli. The original fresco fragment is now in Room IV of the Vatican Pinacoteca (art museum).

This year’s whimsical Christmas stamps, Holiday Baubles, feature four colorful ornaments created by illustrator Linda Fountain. Drawing on styles popular during the 1950s, she first sketched the ornaments then rendered them using cut paper. These renderings were scanned and turned into digital files. Or you might want to go for some fun custom postage stamps like Happy Holidays, Happy Winter Holidays, and Love in Winter, all of which also feature tree ornaments, or Happy Holidays Poinsettia, with a beautifully wrapped package.

Want something a bit more elegant for your cards this year? Try Elegant Season’s Greetings Custom Postage stamps or Silent Night Custom Postage stamps.

Other floral-theme holiday stamps include Holiday Evergreens, which feature close-up views of the foliage and cones of four different conifers: ponderosa pine, eastern red cedar, blue spruce, and balsam fir. The artist, the late Ned Seidler, was a gifted painter of nature subjects. Or you might like Holiday Flowers Custom Postage.

Throwing a party this year? Consider sending your invites with one of three Celebrate stamps. The 2011 Neon Celebrate! stamps will add an unexpected jolt of color to your holiday correspondence, as will the 2010 Celebrate! stamp. First issued in 2007, this stamps features 12 brightly colored blocks designed by artist Nicholas Wilton. The Celebrate! Custom Postage stamp features a seasonal palette of blues, white, and silver. And don’t forget to include the RSVP Pointsettia Custom Postage with your invitations.

Feeling the need for some Santa Claus? The Merry Christmas Custom Postage stamps may be just what you’re looking for. Or you might also like the Santa with Sack of Toys Custom Postage stamps. Both are really delightful!

Kwanzaa is a non-religious holiday that takes place over seven days beginning each year on December 26 and ending January 1. For the 2011 Kwanzaa stamp, artist Daniel Minter created a festive and highly symbolic design to illustrate a Kwanzaa holiday celebration. The bold colors in the stamp art represent the colors of the Kwanzaa flag—green for growth, red for blood, and black for the African people. These same colors are repeated in the candles that are lighted each night of the holiday. Minter’s focus is the family unit celebrating the holiday at home, an important element of Kwanzaa. The design was carved into a linoleum block, and then scanned into a computer where it was colorized. The 2009 Kwanzaa stamp (reissued in 2010) is also still available. You might also like the Happy Kwanzaa Custom Postage stamps.

And that’s it for stamps. Whew! Tomorrow Next week we’ll take a look at some holiday cards . . . some traditional, some not so traditional.