Northwest Asian Weekly
The United States Postal Service (USPS) will release its Year of the Rooster stamp on Jan. 5, 2017, in a ceremony open to the public at the Wing Luke Museum.
The stamp, part of the USPS’ Celebrating Lunar New Year Series, will also be available for purchase nationwide starting on that date.
“The new stamp’s image of a red envelope with the rooster is a meaningful recognition of Asian American cultural heritage,” said Beth Takekawa, executive director of the Wing Luke Museum.
The Year of the Rooster stamp is the 10th stamp in USPS’ Celebrating Lunar New Year series by artist Kam Mak — a Hong Kong-born artist who grew up in New York City’s Chinatown.
The U.S. Postal Service has issued Chinese Lunar New Year stamps since 1992. The first series included all 12 traditional animal signs. The current, second series, “Celebrating Lunar New Year,” emphasizes holiday traditions and will continue through 2019 with stamps for the years of the dog and boar.
History of the Lunar New Year postage stamp
The inspiration to create a Lunar New Year stamp series originated with the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA), known currently as OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates. It began urging the USPS in the late 1980s to issue the first U.S. stamp to honor the contributions of Chinese Americans.
According to the OCA, Jean Chen, a Georgia chapter member, was inspired by an old photograph that showed only Caucasian workers in a book about the history of building the Transcontinental Railroad.
“This obvious slight of the numerous Chinese laborers involved … incensed Chen, who felt that the Asian contributions to the U.S. had been ignored for too long,” the OCA wrote.
After drumming up support from other OCA chapters around the country, the USPS issued its first Lunar New Year stamp celebrating the Year of the Rooster in 1992, and Clarence Lee of Hawaii was commissioned to design it. He also designed the U.S. stamp for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Lee died in 2015.
After the first Lunar New Year stamp series ended in 2004, the OCA lobbied to renew the series. In 2008, the USPS unveiled the first stamp in the second Lunar New Year series designed by Kam Mak.
According to the USPS, Mak’s stamps combine elements from the first series to create continuity.
The 2017 stamp features an original painting by Mak of a rooster on a red envelope (hongbao). Art director and stamp designer Ethel Kessler incorporated elements from the previous series of Lunar New Year stamps — Clarence Lee’s intricate cut-paper design of a rooster and the Chinese character for “rooster,” drawn in grass-style calligraphy by Lau Bun.
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