People travel near and far to send holiday mail out of Bethlehem post office

It doesn't take a wise man to see why people seek it out simply to send their Christmas cards—a postmark from a town named after Jesus' birthplace.

Marissa Alter

Dec 21, 2022, 3:28 AM

Updated 540 days ago

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The holiday rush has post offices everywhere swamped, but at one in Litchfield County, the influx of mail is exponential. Bethlehem, Connecticut, is a tiny town with a notable name. It doesn't take a wise man to see why people seek it out simply to send their Christmas cards—a postmark from a town named after Jesus' birthplace.
From the day after Thanksgiving until Dec. 31, Postmaster Richard Kelly and his staff add the special postmark by hand to holiday well-wishes. The post office sends mail to delivery centers outside of town to be postmarked during the rest of the year.
"Last year we hand canceled about 80,000 pieces," Kelly told News 12. "It looks like this year we're going to beat it. We'll probably do about 85,000-90000 this year, maybe even more."
People can also add a decorative green rubber stamp themselves to make their mail more festive. The holiday tradition began in 1938 with the first stamp. Since then, at least one new one has been added each year. Right now, there are 87 different options for people to choose from with two more added this year. All were designed by residents, area artists and school kids.
"I remember as a child, my aunts talking about this, that people did this. I just never gave it a second thought," said Vic Lembo, of Terryville.
Tuesday was Lembo's first trek ever to the Bethlehem post office, but it won't be his last.
"Seeing this whole operation is just fantastic. I think I will never miss a year from now on," he said.
Others have come since they were kids and have continued the tradition with their own kids and grandkids. The post office added a guest book a few years ago so people could share where they're from and how long they've been coming. News 12 spotted one family that's made it part of their holiday tradition since 1966.
"We do get fanatics from all over, all over the United States," said Kelly.
The post office even gets Christmas cards sent from outside the country to be mailed out from Bethlehem.
"We wouldn't mail them anywhere else," Walter Tiffany told News 12. Tiffany is from Terryville and showed up with a stack of about 130 cards.
He said family and friends appreciate the added Christmas spirit.
"They say, 'Wow! It's postmarked Bethlehem.' And people really enjoy that," Tiffany explained.
All those cards keep Kelly and his team plenty busy.
"Let me tell you, 80,000 of these? You got cramps when you're done," Kelly joked. "It's a lot of work but, you know, we wouldn't have it any other way."


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