Canada Post issued on Monday its first-ever Hanukkah stamp. The domestic stamp, whose design includes a Hanukkah menorah and Star of David, is the first regular-issue stamp honoring the Jewish Festival of Lights in the corporation’s 150-year history.
The Hanukkah stamp is part of a Canada Post initiative to recognize holidays reflecting Canada’s highly multicultural diversity as the country celebrates its sesquicentennial this year. Two other stamps were issued in 2017 as part of this effort, one honoring the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha , and another (a joint issue with India) for the Hindu holiday Diwali.
Until this year, the only religious holiday to be marked by Canada Post has been Christmas. The corporation has issued Noël-themed stamps annually since 1964. (Canada Post has marked Chinese New Year since 1997—but that is a mostly cultural, rather than religious holiday.)
According to Jim Phillips, director of stamp services, Canada Post considers the new Hanukkah stamp as a trial run to gauge market interest for the issuance of a stamp for the holiday on an annual basis.
“If all goes well this Hanukkah season in terms of demand, we’ll issue the same Hanukkah stamp for the next three years, before deciding whether to do a new design after that,” Phillips told The Times of Israel.
Canada Post has made 3 million of the Hanukkah stamps (which sell in packs of 10 for $8.50).
“If we sell half of these this year, that would be a big success,” said Phillips, who thinks the stamps will appeal to a broad range of Canadians, and not only Jews living in major urban communities.
Charles Verge, historian and past president of the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada, noted the ability of holiday designs to boost stamp sales—something postal corporations need in the age of email.
“Targeting specific holidays is a definitely tool to sell more stamps. The Chinese New Year series started 20 years ago has been very popular overall,” he said.
Michael Cohene, the United Nations Postal Administration’s official representative for Canada and the Pacific Northwest, is impressed by the Hanukkah stamp’s design.
The image, described by Canada Post as a “geometric design represent[ing] the different types of menorahs, along with a strong contrast between light and dark, which creates the appearance of flickering flames,” was created by designer Angela Carter at Toronto’s Entro Communications, with input from rabbis and other content-area experts.
“I personally like the color transition from dark navy to light blue depicting darkness to light. The flickering flames are highlighted by the ‘shamash’ [helper candle used to light the others] depicting a Star of David, both Judaic symbols,” Cohene said.
“The concept is well represented by the design. It’s very graphic. It really projects ‘light,'” Verge said.
The stamp also has on it “Hanukkah,” “Hanoukka” (the French spelling for the holiday’s name), and “Canada.” In smaller print, the year of issue (2017) is indicated, as well as “Canada 150,” marking the 150th anniversary of the country’s Confederation.
Some Canadians may recall having seen domestic Hanukkah stamps in the past. In 2011, the corporation did issue two Hanukkah designs (one with a menorah, and one with a dreidel), but they were released under Canada Post’s “Picture Postage” program and not considered regular issue stamps.
“Those stamps were released in a very limited way to test the market, and their designs were very traditional, unlike the new stamp that has a fresh, creative, innovative design,” said Phillips.
In 2010, Canada Post jointly issued a stamp with Israel Post commemorating the 60th anniversary of bilateral ties between the two nations. The stamp’s design reflected Canada and Israel’s shared values and extensive people-to-people connections.
UJA Federation and the organized Jewish community thanked Canada Post for producing the stamp celebrating the Festival of Lights.
“We are grateful that Canada is a place where people from a rich array of ethnic and religious backgrounds can not only thrive, but ultimately make a unique contribution to our diverse cultural mosaic,” said Mariana Catz, chief program officer at UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.