I was chatting with a high school friend yesterday about postage stamps. I know, random, but that’s how conversations usually go–flowing from one topic to the next.
I’ve always been interested in finding unique stamps at the US Post Office. It started when I was an elementary school student and I was writing to several pen-pals. I liked going to the post office and looking at my postage choices. I’m not a collector, I just find the ubiquitous American flag stamps kind of boring, particularly when I know that the postal service releases whole collections of unique stamps each year, I just prefer to buy these.
Old habits die hard, and as an adult, when I have letters to send (even if it is a bill or something mundane), I still stop in the local post office and I ask the counter worker what “interesting” stamps they might have in stock. I still exclusively buy the most colorful or unusual. I’ve had stamps commemorating artists I’d never heard of (most recently Charles and Ray Eames… a husband and wife post-WWII furniture designing team). I’ve had moon landing stamps, Elvis stamps, and stamps of actors from the 40s and 50s. I’ve had stamps of dinosaurs, and zoo animals, US states and unusual plants. The stamps that are available always change, and I always have something different. I think it is fun, and I particularly like getting letters with unusual stamps. It makes me think that the person sending me the letter took a little extra time thinking about letter writing and sending something to me.
The same is true during the Christmas season when I send my holiday cards. Rather than use the stamps that most people (I know) use, I like buying Eid or Kwanzaa stamps. I think originally (back in high school or early college) I did this to be a bit rebellious. I have no idea if other people notice what stamps I put on my envelopes, but I thought it might irk some people that I was sending Christmas cards with Islamic holiday or African-American culture stamps. I didn’t want to make people mad, but I hoped it would spark discussion. I don’t think it ever really has, if anyone notices the stamps they probably just put it in the “another weird thing that C does” category.
The Eid design doesn’t really change, but the Kwanzaa designs do, so now I usually buy Kwanzaa stamps for the holiday. These stamps also remind me of my first love, Africa, especially the stamp from 2009. I like asking for the Kwanzaa stamps specifically at the post office window and seeing the surprised look on the postal worker’s face, since they probably don’t expect someone like me to ask for them.
I also like buying the stamps because I think it is important to use your purchasing dollars for causes you think are important. If not many people buy Eid or Kwanzaa stamps, the post office might stop making them, and since most people that I know buy Christmas themed stamps, I figure the bases for that holiday are covered. In addition, I think it is important to support the US government when they acknowledge holidays that are outside the “traditional” popular culture, like when President Obama attended the Diwali lamp lighting festival in the White House…visibility and acknowledgement make people think.
So when we were talking about stamps I said to my friend, “if there were Hindu stamps, I’d buy a whole sheet” and that got me thinking, does the US Postal Service have Hindu commemorative stamps? I don’t remember seeing any over the years of asking for stamps. I did a quick google search, and realized that I couldn’t find anything that would prove me wrong. There is a company that will make Hindu god stamps, but it is a private company, not the USPS. In 2010 the postal service is releasing a Mother Teresa stamp, which of course is great, but doesn’t necessarily celebrate Hindu culture. I went to the USPS website and did a quick term search for “Hindu,” “Diwali,” and “India.” I got nothing for the first two, and returns for (Native American) Indian stamps, and Indiana stamps for the last term search.
I’m surprised there isn’t a commemorative stamp for the people of Hindu heritage in the United States. At the very least there should be a Diwali stamp. My search was quick, so maybe I missed something (and if I did, please, someone let me know!) but otherwise I’m going to send a quick “suggestion email” to the USPS. If you think there should be a stamp as well, feel free to join me in sending an email suggestion.