"Fifty years of United Nations Peacekeeping" is the theme of the latest set of stamps issued by the U.N. Postal Administration.

During the past half-century, the number of peacekeeping operations has increased to 48. According to U.N. officials, more than 750,000 men and women from virtually every country have participated in such efforts. More than 1,500 have died while serving under the U.N. flag.The first operation - the U.N. Truce Supervision in 1948 in the Middle East - is still in existence. The Military Observer group in India and Pakistan has continued its work since 1949.

There are six stamps in the set. The denominations are 33 cents and 40 cents in U.S. currency, 70 francs and 90 francs in Swiss currency, and 4 schillings and 7.50 schillings in Austrian currency.

The new stamps feature scenes of U.N. peacekeepers at work around the world in various operations. Each stamp has the following inscription, "50 Years of United Nations Peacekeeping."

First-day covers and stamps of the Peacekeeping adhesives are available from the U.N. Postal Administration, P.O. Box 5900, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163-9992. Or call 1-800-234-UNPA.

It may seem a bit early, but the Republic of Palau, a former U.S.-Administered Trust Territory in the western Pacific, has released its 1998 Christmas stamps. The five stamps feature the popular Christmas song "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

Depicted is Rudolph leading Santa's sleigh to Palau, where he is greeted by children who have been on their best behavior awaiting their Christmas gifts.

This is the 13th consecutive annual series by Palau on Christmas songs and carols. These stamps are available at your local dealer.