Raymond Briggs illustrations
Raymond Briggs was born in Wimbledon Park, London, in 1934. At the age of fifteen he went to the local art school and then studied painting for two more years at the Slade School of Fine Art and here he was awarded 'The Diploma of Fine Art (London University)'. Since leaving the Slade School of Fine Art in 1957 he has been a freelance illustrator, book designer and writer producing a number of highly successful illustrated books including The Snowman, Fungus the Bogeyman, When the Wind Blows and Father Christmas, many of which have won prizes including the Kate Greenaway Award.
Father Christmas is a unique and unforgettable representation of a classic character. Hamish Hamilton first published the story of Father Christmas' longest night in 1973 and, in 1975, Raymond Briggs filled us in with what Father Christmas does the other 364 days of the year in the book Father Christmas Goes on Holiday.
Father Christmas Goes on Holiday
It is this latter book that has provided the illustrations for two of the holiday designs for this very inventive new Christmas set of stamps to be released by the Ascension Island Post Office, but the images of Father Christmas in his sleigh come from the original Father Christmas publication. The small island of Ascension lies in the South Atlantic some 700 miles Northwest of the Island of Saint Helena and covers an area of 34 square miles.
The weather is warm all year round rising to a maximum of 30 degrees C. during the months of January, February and March. The breeze of the South East Trade Winds moderates these temperatures. Rainfall is variable and hard to predict. The island is volcanic, and its lower slopes and Western side are made up of volcanic ash with little vegetation. Green Mountain, which rises to a height of nearly 3,000 feet at the center of the island, is lush and green.
Ideal holiday resort
Despite its small size there is a lot to do on the island. There are numerous walks, the opportunity to go scuba diving, and play a wide variety of sports. These include football, tennis, squash and golf (albeit on officially one of the worst golf courses in the world). Sea fishing is also very popular and Ascension is clearly the ideal holiday resort for Father Christmas.
With a population in the region of 1,000 of which some 770 are from St Helena and the balance from the UK and USA, there is a great tradition of celebration at Christmas time and naturally cards and gifts are sent around the world. In 2008, the Christmas stamps will combine an international icon in an idyllic (if not traditional) setting.
Four stamps and the first day cover
Each of the four stamps and the first day cover design takes a detailed image of Father Christmas and superimposes it over a different photograph of Ascension Island to show how he would enjoy a holiday there.
15p (economy rate, cards to St Helena)
Father Christmas is on a boat trip and will pass close to Boatswainbird Island, it is a fantastic sanctuary for many different species of seabirds, and also the Ascension Frigate bird. With a bit of luck he might even spot some Dolphins or a Whale or two along the way.
25p (economy rate, cards to UK)
Father Christmas has to take a route along the coast to avoid the antennas of the BBC Atlantic Relay Station at English Bay, there are more of those blooming things than there are trees. Great surf though, pity he can't stay a while longer!
It is far too hot to fish off the boat in the bay and Father Christmas much prefers to bask in the lovely warm sunshine. Safe in the knowledge that the local people will make sure he doesn't float away to Brazil or hitch a ride on the back of a giant Green Turtle.
200p (packets and higher postage items)
Hey that was Green Mountain he just circled, so this must be Two Boats Village, his first stop before Georgetown. There are no chimneys there, so Father Christmas will have to drop the presents off at the Clubs in time for the children's Christmas party.
The First Day Cover
The First Day Cover design shows Father Christmas studying a map of the world and choosing Ascension Island as his ideal holiday getaway.
Christmas stamps in detail
Issue: Ascension Island, 22 October 2008
Design: Andrew Robinson and Raymond Briggs (illustrations)
Print: BDT International Stochastic lithography
Perforation: 14 per 2cms
Stamp Size: 28.45 x 42.58mm
Sheet layout: 10 (no gutter)
More information Postage Stamps
Postage Stamps 2008
Ascension Island Postage Stamps
Botanists and Plants
90th Anniversary of the RAF
Princess Diana and Mother Teresa