Year of the Dragon stamp by USPS

January 30th, 2012

Commemorating the Lunar New Year, the United States Postal Service has issued a new Forever Stamp featuring a dragon, the fifth of 12 animals associated with the Chinese lunar calendar.

This colorful stamp is the latest collectible in the Postal Service's Celebrating Lunar New Year series, which began in 2008 with the Year of the Rat.

Across many cultures, in the United States as elsewhere, the Lunar New Year is celebrated in various ways, often with parades and parties. By tradition, dragons are not feared, but are considered magical or divine - welcome symbols at this time of renewed hope for the future. Performing before delighted crowds, skilled teams of dancers manipulate colorful dragon figures such as the one depicted in the stamp art. Lucky foods are eaten - kumquats, for example (issued in 2011) - and given as gifts. Festive lanterns, colored red for luck (issued in 2008), are common decorations at Lunar New Year celebrations, where they are frequently hung in rows.

Combining original artwork by Kam Mak with two elements from the previous series of Lunar New Year stamps - Clarence Lee's intricate paper-cut design of a dragon and the Chinese character for "Dragon," drawn in grass-style calligraphy by Lau Bun - art director Ethel Kessler has created a culturally rich stamp design that celebrates the diversity of the American experience.