|The subjects of this year's Christmas stamps designed by Madeleine Mortensen symbolise Christmas decorations, and in the background we can read the words from two different Christmas carols.
We decorate far more for Christmas than for any other festival in Norway - inside, outside, in the streets and the shops, at work and at school and, most of all, in our homes. We all have special memories associated with the things we decorate with. They arise from customs linked both with heathen rituals and with the Christian content of Christmas.
Celebrating Christmas with a decorated tree as the centre piece was originally a German, Protestant custom, which spread during the 19th and 20th century to other parts of the world. The first Christmas trees were seen in Norway in the first half of the 19th century, but did not become common in private homes until the following century. The trees had to be decorated. The first decorations were cakes, apples, sweetmeats and paper flowers.
It became a tradition in the Church to let the decorations symbolize different parts of the Christmas story. Candles symbolize Jesus, the Light of the World, while glitter represents rays from the stars. Balls depict the earth, while chains stand for brotherhood and togetherness. Hearts show love and birds tell of the Holy Spirit. The subjects of the stamps are a star and an apple. The star, usually at the top of the tree, represents the Christmas star which shone over the stable in Bethlehem. The apple is meant to remind us of the Garden of Eden and man's subsequent fall from grace ...
Texts of well-known Christmas carols can be seen in the background of the stamps. Glade jul is a Norwegian version by Bernhard S. Ingemann (1789-1862) of Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht from Tyrol. This song, with a melody composed by Austrian organist Franz Gruber and lyrics by priest Joseph Mohr, was first performed in Obernhof Church in Austria on 25 December 1818. Jeg synger julekvad was reproduced in Norwegian by Magnus B. Landstad (1802-80) for a new psalm book he was asked to compile in 1848. His source was a psalm adapted by Martin Luther in 1533.