The dramatic story of the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt has been depicted in art and music for centuries. Today, the story travels on millions of Forever stamps with the U.S. Postal Service's issuance of the Holy Family stamp as the nation prepares for the holiday mailing season.
The stamp was unveiled at Bethlehem Chapel, the earliest completed portion of Washington National Cathedral. The center panel of the limestone altar reredos (backdrop) depicts the birth of Jesus, and the chapel's five windows tell the Nativity story with colorful detail. The design of the 1980 Christmas stamp featured the Madonna and Child taken from the chapel's Epiphany stained glass window. The Christmas-themed iconography of Bethlehem Chapel extends to the needlepoint kneelers, which bear symbols and images related to the Nativity story including stars, mangers, camels, magi, shepherds, and angels.
Working together, art director William Gicker, designer Greg Breeding, and artist Nancy Stahl have created a new image of the Holy Family. Usually associated with the Flight into Egypt - part of the traditional Nativity story - the scene on the stamp shows Joseph leading a donkey that carries Mary and the infant Jesus, guided by a star shining in the twilight of a desert sky.