SAN FRANCISCO – 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.

SUNDAY DELIVERY

And don’t be surprised if you find items getting delivered on Sunday.

For the second year in a row, mail carriers will be out delivering on Sundays in major cities and high volume areas, a day they haven’t typically worked in the past except for premium Priority Mail Express deliveries.

Sunday delivery was added “to help manage volume, keep the network fluid and ensure timely delivery of packages,” she said.

“We expect to deliver on average approximately five million packages every Sunday during December,” Ninivaggi said.

The shift came from the Postal Service deal with Amazon to make use of USPS’ Parcel Select service to deliver on Sundays.

That program rolled out in 2013 in just two areas, New York and Los Angeles. It expanded in 2014 to other cities and still further this year.

“Following the success of the 2014 holiday season, the Postal Service will again deliver packages seven days a week in select major cities and high-volume areas beginning Nov. 29, for the four Sundays before Christmas,” Ninivaggi said.

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