Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Swiss Christmas Stamps feature "Silent Night" Chapel

The following story has been supplied by the Swiss Post Office Philatelic Office

This year, anybody fortunate enough to spend Christmas out in the country or in the mountains nearby will discover his or her very own “Silent Night” chapel”. And even if this haven of peace and tranquility is just a memory of days long past, what remains for all of us is the indescribable experience of an unforgettable winter’s night during Advent. The festivities begin early in the evening amidst those we love and last until late. The sound of bells in the distance is redolent with memories. Every year, we need that little bit of prompting from a loved one to go to the church service. Our heads are heavy with wine, our stomachs over- loaded with sweet things and our ears ringing with children’s giggling and off-key flute music. So we are reluctant to slip on our old winter gear and lace up our new boots. We walk in silence together along the romantic path leading to the ancient chapel, enjoying the crunch of snow under our feet while snowflakes fall silently all around us. Nobody in our merry group regrets making the effort to leave the cozy living room for the still, cold December night. As expected with rueful good humor, our feet are cold and wet, our fingers frozen stiff and the pews hard. But we are richly rewarded, even as we take our leave and look back at the colorful Christmas trees in front of the chapel and the atmospheric play of windows reflected on the snow. We are filled with a sense of peace, happiness and contentment because we have found our “Still the Night” chapel. And this stamp with the chapel motif is an invitation to us all to rediscover this stillness, whether out of Christian conviction or merely because we are looking forward to Christmas.

You’d have to be really hard-boiled to be able to be totally immune to the mood that reins in the run-up to the festive season. Rilke’s lines invite us to immerse ourselves in this atmosphere. Is this a harking back to better days? why not? Such thoughts are a welcome refuge, especially nowadays. why not let ourselves be carried away by the sight of that beautifully decorated Christmas tree in the midst of a snow-covered city park? The starry sky over the roofs provides the ideal glittering framework for drifting up and away. The gifts piled on the old-fashioned sledge, just waiting to be unpacked, appeal to the child in us, and there’s that practical lantern to light the way (perhaps Christmas with a big bushy beard). Admittedly, the intrusive glitter that pervades every corner of supermarkets crammed with people and merchandise from early November can also get on one’s nerves. Let’s be honest. Advent must have been pretty cozy back in Rilke’s day. But why not revive the run-up to Christmas as a quiet time made for contemplation. It’s a time of breathing in air so cold that it makes your nose run, of blinking your eyes until all the lights begin to dance on the glistening snow. Then we return home to a warm living room and the tin of Christmas biscuits. There’s definitely something to be said for living in modern times, like the many treats from all over the globe that actual festivities, we relish the good life in homes with efficient, reliable heating, with gentle music sounding in our thawing ears or a romantic Christmas-soap DVD flickering before our reddened and runny eyes. But harking back to the age of Rilke should — and must — have its place, for instance sitting right down and writing of romantic letters and cards to our friends and loved ones using Swiss Post’s extra-colorful 2011 Christmas stamps as a counterpoint to all the shopping going on around us.

Once in a lifetime: this is just bow it should be. Waiting for the right house takes patience, and the thought of spending a wonderful Christmas surrounded by loved ones in the chalet of your dreams is enough to warm the cockles of your heart, though hopefully not to melt all that lovely snow. When the time comes round at long last, the snow gods and weather forecasters haven’t got it wrong. It’s a white Christmas for 2011 — brilliant! The chalet next to the dark forest of fir trees, one in the mountains, slightly hidden in a fold of the slope. First impressions — the smell of resin inside, the crackling fire of glowing branches in the open fireplace and the wisps of smoke hanging over the snow-covered roof — add up to a picture like the one on the calendar in granny’s parlor This postcard idyll is for sale in the little village shop down in the valley, complete with glitter or perhaps just with a baby deer in the snow? For once kitsch is OK for sending these special chalet holiday greetings to all your design-conscious friends back home. These ageless chalets come in a wide variety of looks and are found mainly in alpine countries. They are reality and therefore also a matter of taste. It goes without saying that the most attractive ones are to be found in the mountains of Switzerland ... But let’s not get carried away. Our dream chalet must beat least as attractive as the one depicted on the new Christmas stamp designed by illustrator Raphael Volery with its exquisite adornments in the foreground, the splendidly decorated Christmas tree and the brightly burning colored candles! A Swiss Post exclusive that’s easy to find at anytime, at any post office. So you too can dream.

All three stamps were issued November 24th. They were printed by the four color offset method by Cartor Security Printing of La Loupe, France. The stamps measure 33 X 28 mm and have a perforation of 13 ¼ by 13 ½. Raphael Volery is the designer of the stamps and lives in Zurich. To accompany the stamps Swiss Post is producing two sets 4 Christmas card packs. One set is based on the .85CHF stamp and the other is based on the 1.00CHF Stamp. They will sell for 9.20CHF and 9.80CHF and include the matching set of stamps. First Day covers, First Day Folders and First Day Collection sheets will also be available.

To order these stamps and other items

For  Raphael Volery's site

Xmas card and matching stamp

Block with First day cancel