CHRIST­MAS CARDS GET HOLY TOUCH WITH POST­MARK

The Denver Post - - NATION & WORLD - The As­so­ci­ated Press

beth­le­hem, n.h.» In­stead of mail­ing her Christ­mas cards from her lo­cal post of­fice, Sherry Ware­ing drove 20 miles roundtrip to a small post of­fice in a White Moun­tains town of about 2,500.

Con­ve­nience didn’t mat­ter to Ware­ing, who lives in Twin Moun­tain. She wanted the Beth­le­hem stamp on her en­velopes.

“We feel the con­nec­tion here with Je­sus Christ, Beth­le­hem, the birth of Christ and ev­ery­thing. This kind of rep­re­sents it for us,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to the Bi­ble, Je­sus was born in Beth­le­hem, in what is now the West Bank.

Most of the year, let­ters and other mail dropped off at the tiny post of­fice are sent to a re­gional fa­cil­ity in White River Junc­tion, Vt. There, they stream through an ef­fi­cient au­to­mated ma­chine that cancels stamps with postal mark­ings.

But each De­cem­ber, Beth­le­hem post­mas­ter Brian Thomp­son dusts off a ma­chine that has been there for at least six decades. Stacks of cards must be fed into it by hand, and it cancels each stamp with the word “Beth­le­hem.”

“It has a pinch wheel, and it just starts draw­ing let­ters through,” he said. “The ma­chine works great. But you’ll stand there for sev­eral hours a day can­cel­ing let­ters.”

Two days be­fore Christ­mas, Thomp­son said 58,000 let­ters had gone through the ma­chine.

There are about 90 post of­fices in the United States with hol­i­dayor win­ter-themed names, and the Postal Ser­vice of­fers a “Christ­mas Re-mail­ing” ser­vice to them. Let­ters may be sent to the post­mas­ter in the town marked “Christ­mas Re-mail­ing” and they will be stamped and sent out.

The list in­cludes six other Beth­le­hems along with Gar­land, Maine; Holly, Mich.; Ru­dolph, Ohio; Santa Claus, Ind.; Antlers, Okla.; Nazareth, Texas; and Snowflake, Ariz.

In Beth­le­hem, N.H., Thomp­son pro­vides rub­ber stamps and ink at a ta­ble where pa­trons mark their cards and pack­ages with a 2-inch-square wooded scene that says “Beth­le­hem, New Hamp­shire.”

Thomp­son said peo­ple come from around the state for the post­mark. For years, one fam­ily has been com­ing from Penn­syl­va­nia. They drive up, buy a Christ­mas tree and mail their greet­ing cards.

And, what is the re­sponse from peo­ple who re­ceive those cards from the lit­tle town of Beth­le­hem?

“They think it is amaz­ing that they have their own spe­cial stamp here that says ‘Beth­le­hem’ on it,” Ware­ing said.

Jensen, via The As­so­ci­ated Press

A pa­tron leaves the post of­fice in Beth­le­hem, N.H., site of a fa­vorite hol­i­day post­mark. Christo­pher

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