The Bethlehem Post Office gets a little busier around holiday time every year.
That's when it really becomes really apparent to P.O. box holders wading through crowds in the lobby that Bethlehem is, after all, the Christmas town.
The History of the Bethlehem Cachet
For more than 70 years, a holiday-themed cachet, or stamp, has been designed by a local resident.
The cachet program was created by Bethlehem postmaster Earl S. Johnson in 1938. In 1940, Johnson sent a letter to the president of the United States, stamped with the first cachet - a simple outline of a Christmas tree with the words "Merry Christmas from the little town of Bethlehem" inside the outline.
Every year, people come to the post office with piles of cards to stamp. Packages arrive at the post office from all over the country and all over the world: Germany, France, England and Spain. Staff said cards come from all 50 states and at least 11 different countries.
Typically, a handwritten note is included with the postage-paid and pre-addressed cards, asking Bethlehem post office staff to personally stamp each card, which they do. Sometimes, the sender even requests a particular design.
The Bethlehem cachet designs are displayed on the Bethlehem post office website.
Each stamp on the card gets a Bethlehem postmark too.
The Newest Design
The 2011 design is a small cluster of poinsettias, designed by Lorraine Evans of Bethlehem. She drew the submitted design, which was then made into a stamp.
"In the past, when I heard about the cachet contest, they [post office staff] said, 'Lorraine, you should design one'," Evans said.
Evans teaches art classes locally, including portraiture classes at the .
"No one's ever done a poinsettia before and I thought, 'How perfect is this?' It's my life's path now," said Evans.
This is Evans' first time submitting a cachet design.
"It's a wonderful tradition," she said.
How To Reach the Bethlehem Post Office
The Bethlehem Post Office is located at 32 East St., Bethlehem. People can stamp their own cards in the lobby or send them to the post office for hand-stamping by post office staff.
The lobby is open from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, until Friday, Dec. 23. The window is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
On Saturday, Dec. 17, the lobby is open from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The window is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
On Saturday, Dec. 24, the window is open from 8 a.m. to noon.
The Bethlehem Post Office can be reached at 203-266-7910.
Bethlehem Around The World
Ever wondered how other towns named Bethlehem celebrate the holiday?
Venerated as the birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem, located approximately six miles south of Jerusalem, honors Christmas by offering a midnight mass on Christmas Eve with thousands of local and visiting worshipers who gather in Manger Square outside the Church of the Nativity.
In Bethlehem, Kentucky, the post office has hand-stamped letters since 1947, according to a RoundAbout feature on the town. The cachet features a scene of Wise Men seeking the Messiah.
In Bethlehem, Georgia, dubbed the "little town under the star," a live nativity pageant takes place on December 22 and 23 in the town square.
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania celebrates the holiday with a number of activities, including a Christkindlmarkt, Bethlehem by Night bus tours, holiday carriage rides and walking tours and a live Bethlehem Christmas pageant.
An Assortment of Christmas-Themed Towns
Here's a sampling:
- Advent, W. Va.
- Noel, Mo.
- North Pole, N.Y.
- Wiseman, Ark.
- Santa Claus, Ind.