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Christmas 1985

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Christmas carols have long been a means of celebrating Christmas. The earliest medieval carols, while encompassing quite a range of subjects, were always joyous and accompanied by dancing. 

Issue information

The earliest record of happy music equated with Christmas happened in 1223 or 1224 when St Francis set up the first manger scene at Greccio in Italy, using real animals and statues of the Holy Family. Singing was spontaneous and in a celebratory spirit. As time progressed, some Christmas songs were composed specifically, while others evolved in the manner of folk music, handed down from generation to generation, with many changes along the way.

Some great carols have endured for many generations, as have the feelings that inspired them. The Christmas carol depicted on the 1985 Christmas stamps was 'Silent Night, Holy Night', which was written under unlikely circumstances. Father Josef Mohr was the illegitimate son of a seamstress and an army deserter. In 1818, he was an assistant priest at St Nicholas' Church at Oberndorf in Austria. That Christmas Eve it was discovered that the organ simply would not go and faced with the prospect of a Christmas Eve service with no music, he wrote three six-line stanzas, each beginning "Stille Nacht!  Heilige Nacht!". This poetry was given to his organist, Franz Gruber, who was asked to set it to music that could be sung by the choir accompanied by a guitar. Fired with inspiration Gruber composed the music in a couple of hours.

The following spring an organ builder came to fix the organ and he copied the song and began singing it on his rounds. Two separate families of folk singers adopted it as part of their repertoires and In 1834 the carol was sung to the King of Prussia by the Strasser family. He was so impressed that he ordered it to be sung every Christmas Eve by his Cathedral choir. Five years later the Rainer family took the carol was to America and by the middle of the nineteenth century it was popular worldwide. Today's translation first appeared in 1863.

Stamp Bulletin

This stamp issue first appeared in New Zealand Post Stamp Bulletin No. 34 in September 1985.

Acknowledgments: Bulletin scanned and provided by John Biddlecombe of the New Zealand Society of Great Britain. Their web site offers further information useful to those interested in the stamps and postal history of New Zealand. Link:

Product Listing for Christmas 1985

Image Title Description Price
  Single stamp

Single 18c 'Silent Night, Holy Night' gummed stamp.

The nativity scene itself, with all the wonder and peace of the birth of the Holy Child.

  Single Stamp

Single 40c 'Silent Night, Holy Night' gummed stamp.

Two shepherds with one sheep and a lamb, accompanied by a small boy reflect the silent holiness of the very first Christmas night.

  Single Stamp

Single 50c 'Silent Night, Holy Night' gummed stamp.

The heavenly host proclaiming the glad tidings of Christmas as they may have appeared to the shepherds.

  First Day Cover First day cover with stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $1.22

Technical information

Date of issue: 18 September 1985
Number of stamps: Three gummed
Denominations: 18c, 40c and 50c
Stamps designed by: Eileen Mayo, Christchurch, New Zealand
First day cover designed by: Public Relations New Zealand Post Office
Printer and process: Joh Enschedé en Zonen, Netherlands by hotogravure 
Stamp size and format: 30mm x 38mm (vertical)
Paper type: Unwatermarked
Number of stamps per sheet:  100 
Perforation gauge: 13.25 x 12.5
Special blocks: Plate/imprint positional or value blocks could be obtained by purchasing at least six stamps of each denomination
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 30 June 1986. First day covers remained on sale until 27 September 1985.
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