2018 Year of the Dog Lunar New Year stamp, designed by Kam Mak and issued by the United States Postal Service (all images courtesy United States Postal Service)
Happy Year of the Dog! For the next few weeks, millions around the world will be celebrating Lunar New Year in all sorts of festive ways, from tossing lo hei to watching dragon dances to receiving highly anticipated red ang pao packets. For many years, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has marked the occasion with a gesture only it can deliver: the issue of a special stamp, designed to capture the spirit of the major holiday.
2018 marks the tenth year that USPS has produced stamps for its series “Celebrating Lunar New Year,” whose imagery focuses on symbolic objects that feature in festivities. To reflect the Chinese zodiac, which moves in a 12-year cycle, the agency’s art director, Ethel Kessler, worked with the Hong Kong-born, Brooklyn-based illustrator Kam Mak to design 12 stamps to roll out one year at a time.
This year’s dog-themed one is a gorgeous picture that centers on three elegant, twisting lucky bamboo. A red paper decorated with the Chinese character, 褔 (fú) indicates good fortune, while a dog, rendered as a traditional paper cutout, waves from the upper-left corner. The subtle canine was designed by the late artist Clarence Lee, who created the very first Lunar New Year-themed stamp series the USPS issued. That series of 12, which illustrated each of the 12 zodiac animals, was introduced in 1992.
Each of Mak’s designs incorporates Lee’s visions, from the rat to the boar. The Year of the Dog stamp is the penultimate one to be released, and is, I’d argue, the most exquisite yet. Just like its predecessors, it is a fitting adornment to mark messages that wish friends and family good health, happiness, love, and lasting prosperity.