Sec­u­lar scenes put a stamp on Christ­mas

The Sunday Telegraph - - Front page - By Katie Mor­ley and Phoebe South­worth

THE Royal Mail is fac­ing calls to re­design its re­li­gious Christ­mas stamps, as it emerged they are now be­ing out­sold by those with scenes of snow and Fa­ther Christ­mas.

Six in 10 fes­tive stamps bought now fea­ture sec­u­lar scenes, up from around four in 10 five years ago, the Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of SubPost­mas­ters said. Ex­perts said that the re­li­gious de­signs tended to be more se­ri­ous, with this year’s fea­tur­ing the Madonna and Child.

Tim Dieppe, head of pub­lic pol­icy at Chris­tian Con­cern, said: “It is dis­ap­point­ing. Per­haps sec­u­lar stamps por­tray the Christ­mas story in a more glam­orous way.”

RE­LI­GIOUS Christ­mas stamps have been over­taken in sales by the sec­u­lar va­ri­ety, lead­ing to calls for the Royal Mail to re­vamp its de­signs.

Around six in 10 fes­tive stamps bought by mem­bers of the pub­lic are now sec­u­lar ones, up from around four in 10 five years ago, the Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of SubPost­mas­ters said.

Ex­perts said the Royal Mail’s re­li­gious stamps tended to be more se­ri­ous and less glam­orous in their de­sign than non-re­li­gious stamps, po­ten­tially con­tribut­ing to their de­cline in pop­u­lar­ity among let­ter senders hop­ing to gar­ner fes­tive cheer.

Tim Dieppe, head of pub­lic pol­icy at Chris­tian Con­cern, said: “There’s much in the Christ­mas story that could be vis­ual. You’ve got the kings, the shep­herds, the manger, the ap­pear­ances of the an­gels.

“There is much to be cre­ative with in the Christ­mas story. I don’t know whether it is be­cause the artists for sec­u­lar stamps are bet­ter and more cre­ative than those de­sign­ing the reli- gious ones. It is dis­ap­point­ing. Per­haps sec­u­lar stamps por­tray the Christ­mas story in a more glam­orous way.”

Ev­ery year the Royal Mail de­signs a new set of stamps, al­ter­nat­ing be­tween re­li­gious and sec­u­lar. Post of­fices aim to sup­ply both types of stamps to give cus­tomers a choice be­tween the two.

The re­li­gious stamps on of­fer this year were de­signed in 2017 and fea­ture the Madonna and Child. The sec­u­lar ones show fam­i­lies post­ing let­ters through red post­boxes in the snow.

Mean­while, a num­ber of cus­tomers have com­plained of a short­age of re­li­gious stamps at their lo­cal post of­fices and shops, sug­gest­ing too few may have been made avail­able.

One cus­tomer re­sorted to buy­ing them on­line from Royal Mail, re­sult­ing in him pay­ing £1.45 postage on postage stamps.

An­other cus­tomer who was un­able to buy re­li­gious stamps said: “Clearly the Royal Mail is de­ter­mined to take Christ out of Christ­mas.”

The Royal Mail de­nied any is­sues with sup­ply and said it was up to shops and Post Of­fices to re­quest more re­li­gious stamps if they had run out.

To en­sure cards ar­rive be­fore Christ­mas Day the Royal Mail rec­om­mends post­ing dates of Dec 18 for sec­ond class, Dec 20 for first class and Dec 22 for spe­cial de­liv­ery.

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion by The Tele­graph re­cently re­vealed that reused first and sec­ond-class stamps are be­ing sold on­line. The Royal Mail says it is a “crime to know­ingly use coun­ter­feit or reused stamps to avoid pay­ing Royal Mail the full amount re­quired”.

This year’s Madonna and Child de­sign

Re­li­gious postage stamps are prov­ing less pop­u­lar than stamps show­ing Fa­ther Christ­mas and sec­u­lar snowy scenes

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