Published Monday, 11 February 2013
A Chinese dragon snapped in Belfast features in the series of stamps. (© Royal Mail)
To mark the start of the Year of the Snake, Royal Mail has issued a limited-edition stamp sheet featuring celebrations by Chinese communities around the UK alongside intricate designs representing all five elemental snake types.
Representing the Chinatowns in Belfast, Glasgow and Manchester, the stamps are adorned with traditional Chinese dragons, with London and Cardiff the other cities featured.
These are joined by the elemental snake types - metal, earth, fire, wood and water - as well as images reflecting the aspirations of hope, heritage, success, togetherness and good fortune.
Philip Parker, Royal Mail spokesperson, said: "The Lunar New Year is a huge cause for celebration across many parts of the UK and worldwide, and as such Royal Mail is delighted to be marking the Year of the Snake with this sheet of stamps."
Rachel Cole, 26, a design executive working in Belfast snapped the Chinese dragon used for the series.
She took the photograph at Belfast City Hall during Chinese New Year celebrations a few years ago.
"I had just come from St George's Market where there were performance artists and stalls for Chinese New Year. I noticed a crowd gathered at the gates and heard drumming and the lion dancers appeared out of nowhere, it was great to watch," she explained.
She said the news that Royal Mail wanted to use the image was a surprise.
"I uploaded some of my images to a photography site online, not professionally but just as a personal hobby and interest," she said.
"I feel very lucky to have something that I've created out in the public domain but I could never have imagined being featured by Royal Mail - of course my mum was first to buy a few.
"What makes it even more special is that the stamp represents Belfast. Each of the stamps illustrates a city in the UK so to showcase Belfast's vibrancy and multi-layered culture alongside them is really uplifting."
Thousands attended festivities to mark Chinese New Year on Sunday, Northern Ireland's biggest celebration to date running over 15 days.
The Lunar New Year Commemorative Sheet is available in 350 local Post Offices across the UK and online.