Retrospective showcases 24 Lunar New Year stamp designs

January 14, 2021
4 minute read

Canada Post released a stamp issue today that celebrates the designs of all Lunar New Year stamps that it produced from 2009 to 2020.

The retrospective brings all of the stamps in the series together in a single issue. All 12 Permanent™ designs are included in a pane. There is also an uncut press sheet based on the 12 original international rate souvenir sheet designs.

The new stamps mark the end of our second Lunar New Year series, which contained some of the most popular stamps we’ve ever produced. The first series ran from 1997 to 2008.

“It’s a perennial favourite with collectors and consumers alike,” says Jim Phillips, Canada Post’s Director of Stamp Services. “We’re very proud of the many designers who have worked on this issue and managed to balance the feel of the series while keeping the design fresh and new every year.”

The new issue reuses the 24 designs from the series, which started in 2009 with Year of the Ox stamps and continued through 2020 with Year of the Rat stamps.

The new stamps replicate the rich use of colour, insightful design, gold foil and leading-edge printing techniques of the original stamps.

Lunar New Year celebrations mark the beginning of the New Year in the Chinese lunar calendar, which plays an essential role in Chinese culture and is widely credited as the oldest surviving calendar system in the world.

Each year in the 12-year Chinese zodiac is represented by an animal that is believed to influence the personality, career, compatibility, marriage and fortune of the person born under the sign. This is called a person’s Sheng Xiao, with Sheng meaning the year of birth, and Xiao resemblance, or shuxiang.

The animals in the Chinese zodiac

The calendar honours the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

According to legend, the order of the animals in the zodiac was determined by how they placed in a race called by the Jade Emperor of Heaven. There are different iterations of the legend, but the most common goes like this:

The Great Race

One day the Jade Emperor held a race to determine which 12 animals were worthy of being his guards. The earlier an animal went through the Heavenly Gate at the finish line, the better the rank the animal would receive in the zodiac.

On the night before the race, the rat promised to wake the cat, a neighbour and good friend; but he was so excited for the race, he forgot and left without the cat. By the time the cat finally arrived, the race was over. Some believe that is why cats and rats don’t get along to this very day.

The animals in the Chinese zodiac

The calendar honours the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

According to legend, the order of the animals in the zodiac was determined by how they placed in a race called by the Jade Emperor of Heaven. There are different iterations of the legend, but the most common goes like this:

The Great Race

One day the Jade Emperor held a race to determine which 12 animals were worthy of being his guards. The earlier an animal went through the Heavenly Gate at the finish line, the better the rank the animal would receive in the zodiac.

On the night before the race, the rat promised to wake the cat, a neighbour and good friend; but he was so excited for the race, he forgot and left without the cat. By the time the cat finally arrived, the race was over. Some believe that is why cats and rats don’t get along to this very day.

The rat was a poor swimmer, but clever, and asked the ox if he could hitch a ride on his back. The ox agreed.

Just as the ox was about to win, the rat leapt from its back to win the race and claim the first year of the zodiac. The ox was tricked into second place, so claimed the second year of the zodiac.

The tiger struggled mightily to finish the race in third place, followed by the rabbit that hopped on stepping stones and commandeered a floating log to get across. The rabbit would represent the fourth year of the zodiac.

Though able to fly, the dragon was fifth to cross the finish line. He took time to make rain for the thirsty and to blow the rabbit’s log to shore. Impressed with these kindnesses, the Jade Emperor appointed the dragon to the fifth year in the zodiac.

Just then came a galloping rumble from the horse that appeared sure to be the next one through the Heavenly Gate. But, just before the finish, a snake wriggled out from around one of the horse’s hooves to take sixth place in the race. The horse had to settle for seventh.

Soon after, a raft carrying the ram, monkey and rooster arrived on shore. The Jade Emperor declared the ram the eighth zodiac animal, the monkey the ninth and the rooster the tenth.

Next to finish was the dog, a strong swimmer that played and bathed in the water along the way. The dog would represent the 11th year of the Chinese zodiac.

Some time passed before the 12th entrant emerged with a grunt. It was the boar, a male pig that would fill the final spot in the zodiac. After stopping to eat and sleep, the pig finally ambled over the line.

From that day on, the Chinese zodiac has followed this cycle of years named after these 12 animals.

Stamp retrospective showcases 12 years of Lunar New Year stamp series

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