Great snakes! NZ Post celebrates Chinese zodiac

Great snakes! NZ Post celebrates Chinese zodiac

2012 was the year of the dragon, but 2013 is the year of the snake – and NZ Post is celebrating Chinese New Year with the release of four stamps cleverly blending symbolism from both China and New Zealand.

The 70c stamp eschews snake images in favour of the Chinese calligraphic character for the word “snake” – making it safe even for the most olidiophobic among us. The calligraphic character used dates back more than 700 years.

The $1.40 stamp features the traditional Kiwi silver fern and a snake made through the traditional Chinese art form of paper cutting. People needn’t fear though, as this snake is a friendly one – a greetings snake – incorporating designs based on the pomegranate (Chinese symbol of luck, fertility, wealth and long life).

The $1.90 stamp also links symbolism from New Zealand and China, showing a traditional Chinese lantern with the image of a snake furled into the shape of a koru. The unfurling fern represents new life, growth and strength, while the rounded lantern symbolises wholeness and harmony. The snake is decorated with the peony, which is widely regarded as China’s national flower.

Last, but by no means least, the $2.40 stamp takes the koru-snake lantern design to new heights – attaching them to Queenstown’s Skyline Gondolas.

Philatelists can pick up a colourful miniature sheet all four stamps, augmented by the Chinese characters for each of the 12 animals in the Chinese lunar calendar, or gold-foiled versions (only 128 produced worldwide)  made from 24-carat, 99.9-gold foil.