For those who’ve done their shopping, written their cards and have only to drop by the post office, the time is now. Yes, there will be lines but it’s only going to get worse.

“We always encourage people to ship as early as possible,” said U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Sarah Ninivaggi.

The deadline for mailing first class mail so it arrives by Christmas Eve is Saturday, Dec. 19. That includes cards and small packages weighing less than 13 ounces.

The deadline for priority mail, which includes packages, is Monday, Dec. 21.

The absolute, last ditch postal service shipping date is Dec. 23 for Priority Mail Express.

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, the Postal Service expects to deliver 600 million packages, a 10.5% increase over last year.

Over the entire holiday season, the Postal Service expects to deliver 15.5 billion cards, letters and packages.

For comparison, UPS anticipates delivering 630 million packages between Black Friday and New Year’s Eve.

If you’re waiting for packages to arrive, Ninivaggi says the Postal Service anticipates Monday, Dec. 21 will be its busiest delivery day of the year.

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