The holiday season has begun and so, too, has the most popular time of the year for Kentucky post offices in a few communities with Christmas-themed names.
The post offices in Bethlehem, Nazareth and Partridge annually receive Christmas cards from all over the world with requests they be canceled and mailed from their locations.
The Bethlehem Post Office in Henry County has offered a special cancellation during the holidays since 1947, and typically postmarks around 50,000 cards during the Christmas season, according to the U.S. Postal Service. This year's postmark proclaims "Christmas greetings" and shows a picture of the three wise men on camels.
"There is no comparison between the Christmas season and the rest of the year," Bethlehem Postmaster Susan Leopold said in a statement. "Usually, this office operates with one person. During Christmas, we have three to four volunteers here every day, all day, cancelling letters with the special cancellation.
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"I have regulars who come every year, starting the day before Thanksgiving. In fact, if I don't see my regulars, I worry about them. It is a special and exciting time and I look forward to it all year long."
In Nazareth in Nelson County, Postmaster Norine Masterson canceled more than 16,000 letters last year. This year, she designed a postmark showing the traditional manger scene to pay tribute to the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth ministry, which is celebrating its 200th Christmas.
In Partridge in Letcher County, the post office does not have a special cancellation postmark, but Postmaster Joy Short does use red ink in her date stamp to provide a Christmas cancellation when requested. Christmas isn't the only time of interest in Partridge. Short gets requests throughout the year for whatever reason.
This year, the postal service has also released a "Holy Family Forever" stamp that depicts Joseph leading a donkey carrying Mary and baby Jesus. The stamp is available at post offices nationwide.
"The holiday mailing season is time for the postal service to shine," said spokeswoman Susan Wright. "And we're happy to do whatever we can to help make our customers' holidays special."