At around 1 p.m. Tuesday, Paula Boxly poked her head out from the bulky stack of boxes she carried, walking into the Westminster Post Office.
Old photographs — from the 1930s and ‘40s — for the younger brother of a late extended family member. Gifts for an Ohio friend who loves Longaberger products. Something for her former colleague, who lives in Nebraska, to serve at her Christmas Eve party.
She didn’t tell the family member that pictures were en route, explained Boxly, of Finksburg. Instead she plans to track the package closely and send him a Facebook message when it’s arrived saying, “You have to open this.”
The two other packages she sent off Dec. 18 were part of a years-long tradition of exchanging gifts with close friends via mail. Inside the brown boxes were neatly wrapped presents, she said, “Our deal is you can’t open it until Christmas Day.”
Boxly, like so many others during the holiday season, counts on the U.S. Postal Service to make sure her mementos and gifts reach their destination in time for the big day.
Perhaps no place experiences the holiday hustle like post offices.
People giddy with Christmas spirit pass through the Post Office in droves in the days preceding Dec. 25, whether they are mailing those pesky holiday cards or embodying Santa Claus by shipping some last-minute gifts.
“This is the busiest week of the year,” said Candace Curry, postmaster at the Post Office on Woodward Drive in Westminster. “Parcel runs start at 6 a.m. and don’t stop until they’re done.”
The postal service estimates that it will process and deliver 3 billion pieces of mail, including 200 million packages, from Dec. 17-25 alone, according to a news release from the agency.
The USPS distribution center in Baltimore provided the Westminster location with six additional vehicles.
Online package tracking has emphasized the importance of getting things to their destinations on time, Curry said, noting, “we have to make sure the parcels get home.”
Curry prides herself on the customer service offered at the Westminster post office. She employs a stamp-only line and has multiple staff that use mobile devices to check out customers.
“Does anybody have a flat-rate envelope or a flat-rate box?” a clerk, wielding a mobile checkout device, shouted to the increasing line Tuesday afternoon. Mobile purchases can only be done with credit cards.
That didn’t apply to Bob Gillispie, as the Westminster resident of 24 years entered the mailing center toting two kitchen trash bags filled with packages.
Though the former police officer hadn’t missed the Christmas deadlines, he was cutting it close — as were many others Tuesday.
“I should’ve sent these weeks ago,” he said.
In order to arrive by Dec. 25, first-class mail and packages must be sent by Dec. 20, according to the USPS release. Priority Mail Express can be sent as late as Dec. 22, but that’s the final cutoff, USPS details.
For roughly 50 years Gillispie has sent his four brothers gifts in mail for the holidays. One of his brothers lives in Whitfield, Virginia. Another in Florida.
He sent shirts and a motion detection security system, among many other items this year.
Gillispie said the brothers have fun with the tradition. As such one brother will be opening his present to find a can of goat milk chocolate candy called “Poop,” he said. “It’s gourmet.”