Julianne Cato, 11, of Loganville and her grandfather Stan Cato of Monroe, stamp their 160 Christmas cards with a "Christmas Greetings from Bethlehem" stamp at the United States Post Office in Bethlehem, Ga. Thursday. Not only do Georgians travel from all over the state for this stamp as well as the postal title and location stamp others mail packages of cards to the Bethlehem Post Office to obtain the stamps. (Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
Bethlehem Post Office
People come from locations hours away to have their Christmas cards canceled on the post office's machine.
BETHLEHEM — For roughly 11 months out of the year, a cancelling machine sits idle in a corner at the Bethlehem Post Office. For about a month though — from the day after Thanksgiving through noon on Christmas Eve — the machine is pulled out and put to use every day canceling thousands of holiday cards.
The machine, which dates back to the ’50s or ’60s, makes a special postal marking over the postage stamp, defacing it to prevent its re-use. The mark made by the machine at the Bethlehem Post Office on Christmas Avenue is a unique one — it has a trumpeting angel and reads, “Seasons Greetings from Bethlehem.”
Postmaster Dennis Jones, who is celebrating his first Christmas at the Bethlehem Post Office, said people come from locations hours away to have their cards canceled.
In addition to the special cancellation mark, the Bethlehem Post Office provides hand stamps customers can also use. The stamp depicts three wise men under a star and reads, “Christmas Greetings from Bethlehem.”
“People are lined up like there’s a parade going on outside to come cancel their Christmas cards,” Jones said. “It’s unbelievable how many people come.”
For some, visiting the Bethlehem Post Office is a yearly tradition.
Mary and Sam Cummins drove an hour-and-a-half to Bethlehem on Friday afternoon with their two great-nieces, Maddie Hersh, 9, Gabby Hersh, 4, and a great-nephew, Brady Hersh, 6. The Cummins have made the trek from their home in Colbert a yearly tradition.
“We’ve probably been coming about eight years,” Mary Cummins said. “The people that get our letters just love them. I’ve got this one lady that has saved every one of them, every envelope. She just loves these stamps that we put on here.”
The Cummins, who were mailing about 120 cards, said they operate like an assembly line, with the children stamping the envelopes with the “Christmas Greetings from Bethlehem” stamp and sometimes even stamping themselves.
“(It’s showing people) there is a nice little town someplace named Bethlehem that’s willing to get their old machine out and stamp it ‘Bethlehem’ so people can stop and think about the Saviour, what Bethlehem really means.”
For others, mailing cards from the Bethlehem Post Office is a new experience.
“I had one lady come in, she was probably 80 years old. She said she’d been wanting to come up here for 30 years and this is her first time and she acted like a little kid,” Jones said. “She was all excited, ‘I’ve been wanting to do this for so long.’ It was kind of cool to see that.”
Postal customers from around the country also send cards in packages addressed to the postmaster to have them canceled and mailed out.
As of Friday afternoon, since the day after Thanksgiving, the post office had canceled 160,000 cards. Last year, about 150,000 cards came through, each going out marked “Seasons Greetings from Bethlehem.”
Bethlehem Post Office
A busy time of the year for the Bethlehem Post Office in Bethlehem, Ga. as many desire to have a Bethlehem postal stamp placed on their Christmas cards.