Royal Mail has been issuing Christmas Stamps every year since 1966, and it's fair to say that they are now a much-loved part of the festive season.
This time, the Royal Mail picked a Madonna and Child theme for Christmas 2013. These have been created using details taken from Madonna and Child paintings down the ages and across many cultures, including the Early Renaissance, High Renaissance, Neoclassical, French Academic and Neo- Coptic styles. These pristine stamps come in seven values, including First Class Large and Second Class Large.
Second Class and Second Class Large Stamp
In Antoniazzo Romano's Virgin and Child with the young St John the Baptist (c.1460–80), in the Early Renaissance style, Mary holds Jesus on her left arm and points towards him with her right, indicating that he is the way to salvation.
First Class and First Class Large Stamp
In Madonna and Child (c.1520), painted in the High Renaissance style, Francesco Granacci depicts the Virgin in her traditional garments of red and blue, earthly and divine, while the bird in Christ's hand alludes to the coming Passion.
Jacques-Louis David's St Roch Praying to the Virgin for an End to the Plague (1780), which is painted in the Neoclassical style, is a deeply Catholic painting, depicting the Virgin Mary in her role as protector and intercessor.
In La Vierge au Lys (1899), painted in the French Academic style by William- Adolphe Bouguereau, the Virgin and Child are enthroned, with Jesus held close by his mother, his outstretched arms suggestive of the crucifixion to come.
In Theotokos, Mother of God by Fadi Mikhail, which is painted in the Neo-Coptic style, Christ's white tunic indicates his divinity, while the Virgin Mary's blue mantle likens her to the sky, as in the icon of The Flight into Egypt.
This year the Royal Mail announced its first Christmas Stamp Design Competition among children from 4 to 11 years. They were asked to design a stamp based on the question "What does Christmas mean to you?" More than 240,000 pictures were entered, from which two fabulous festive designs have been picked as the winners.
They're now set to win the nation's hearts too, when they are issued on 5 November together with the regular Christmas Stamps.
This year, the first class stamp was created by Molly Robson, aged seven, from Horsham in West Sussex. Her stamp called "Santa" features Father Christmas among a sea of presents with snow falling in the background.
Winning the second class stamp design was Rosie Hargreaves, 10, from Ivybridge in Devon. Her "Singing Angels" shows three angels complete with halos and wings singing on a starry night.