It's started -- that flood of cards, letters and packages that mark the holiday season for postmaster Michael Keefe and other employees at the Cape Girardeau Post Office.
"This is the time of year when we love our jobs because we get to deliver Christmas cards and things, which people love receiving," Keefe said.
According to officials with the U.S. Postal Service, about 20 billion cards, letters and packages are mailed nationwide between Nov. 29 and Dec. 31.
The Cape Girardeau Post Office will see between 3 million and 5 million pieces of mail between today and Christmas, Keefe said.
To move these large volumes of mail, the U.S. Postal Service has added transportation, more equipment and temporary holiday employees. Keefe said the local post office will hire seven employees to help with the seasonal rush.
500 letters to Santa
By far, the most popular recipient of holiday mail is jolly old St. Nicholas. Around 500 letters to Santa were collected Sunday at Cape Girardeau's annual Parade of Lights, Keefe said. Those with return addresses will receive a note and coloring book from "Santa's elves," confirming that the letter has been received at the North Pole.
To help with other Christmas correspondence, the U.S. Postal Service has compiled a list of mailing tips. According to Keefe, the most important of those tips is to mail early.
"It sounds simple, but it's the best way to make sure mail is delivered on time," Keefe said.
Cape Girardeau residents such as Carolyn Taylor, who mails around 30 greeting cards every Christmas to family and friends across the United States, agree that mailing early is always a good idea.
"I try to mail my cards by the 15th. That way you can enjoy them for a while before Christmas," Taylor said.
Her tip for avoiding long lines at the post office during the holiday season?
"Come really early in the morning. It's not nearly as busy," Taylor said.
The holidays mean additional shipping for businesses as well. Bill Osburn with Esicar's Old Hickory Smokehouse made one of many trips to the local post office Monday morning to mail packages of cured meat, which are ordered as Christmas presents by customers across the United States.
Osburn said Esicar's ships hundreds of packages every year for Christmas, beginning in November.
"We try to ship early and get ahead of the game," he said.
"We send a lot of stuff UPS. We usually have a shopping cart full of packages that gets picked up twice a day," Osburn said. "But we still send quite a bit through the regular post office."
Despite the increased amount of mail, the Cape Girardeau Post Office will not extend its business hours during the holidays because there hasn't been that big of a demand in recent years, Keefe said.
"Our goal is to deliver increased holiday mail volumes at our normal, year-round service levels to make your holidays magical," Keefe said.
335-6611, extension 128
TIPS FOR HOLIDAY MAILING
Write, type or print the delivery address neatly.
Always use a return address.
Always use tape that is designed for shipping.
Place a return address label inside packages.
When mailing framed photographs, take the glass out of the frame and wrap separately.
For ZIP code information, visit the postal service's Web site at www.usps.com.
SOURCE: U.S. Postal Service