In December 1947 Bethlehem post mistress Anna Laura Peyton stamped the first official Christmas postmark onto mail leaving her parlor which doubled as the post office.
Peyton designed the stamp that bears the likeness of the three wise men following the Star of Bethlehem that is still used today.
“This is the 62nd year we will continue that tradition,” current post mistress Susan Leopold said.
To usher in the Christmas season the Bethlehem Post Office also will host its annual open house on Saturday, Dec. 5, from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. .
Leopold said guests will have the opportunity to observe workers postmark outgoing Christmas cards, enjoy refreshments and enter drawings for prizes.
Local artists’ and crafters’ work also will be on display in a space adjacent to the post office.
“The community usually contributes cookies and appetizers,” she said. “For the drawings I do different things every year.”
Leopold said this year she plans to fill a gift basket with items such as note cards and stamps.
“We’ll also have coloring books for the kids,” she said.
Leopold said anyone who comes into the post office up until the day of the drawing on Christmas Eve may enter.
The post office offers extended hours throughout the month. On Dec. 10-12, 17-19 it will be open from 8:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Normal hours are Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Leopold said it’s Bethlehem’s most exciting time of year.
There are only a couple dozen towns named for the birthplace of Jesus in the U.S. and she said people enjoy the unique idea that their Christmas cards are postmarked from Bethlehem.
Leopold said besides coming for the free Christmas postmark, she hopes people will consider purchasing postage stamps as well.
“Business is minimal here throughout the year,” she said, “but this month we’ll handle 50,000 cards or more. They come from everywhere.”
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