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Tampa, Florida -- It starts right around noon, with people on their lunch breaks from work, and it builds -- turning Monday into the busiest mailing day of the year for the post office.

You may be amazed when you realize just how much mail the U.S. Postal Service expects to move in one day.

You may be even more amazed when you realize they manage to stay pretty jolly while they do it.

Mark Cripps is bracing for the wave of people "Blitzen" the post office, trying to outrun Comet, Cupid, and their reindeer buddies.

It's the busiest mailing day of the year for the U.S. Postal Service and the 32nd one that Cripps, a veteran clerk, has worked.

"People, when we see them, they've already been with all the crowds and stuff like that. And I understand that. So I try to make it easier for other people," Cripps said, standing at the counter of the main post office at Tampa International Airport.

On this one day, post offices expect to handle more than 600 million pieces of mail. That's around 7,000 stamps stuck and shipments sent every second across America.

To put it another way, if each of those 600 million mail pieces were as thick as one postcard, and you stacked them up, they'd reach the edge of space.

Yes, space, 67 miles up.

Want to avoid being one of the six million people who'll set foot in a post office on Monday?

One option: Take a quick drive three hours southeast of Tampa toOchopee, Florida -- home of America's smallest post office. Measuring a cozy 61 square feet, they won't be too busy.

Or skip the line at the post office and buy postage online. Use any printer, tape the postage onto the box, and your regular mail carrier will pick it up.

But if going to the post office in person is still your best option, come on in. Honorary elves like Mark Cripps will be happy to help you.

No matter how you decide to ship that fruitcake, make sure you follow these deadlines to get your gift there by Christmas morning:

- December 20th - First Class Mail
- December 21st - Priority Mail
- December 23rd - Priority Mail Express (1-day delivery)

For more information on online postage and shipping deadlines, visit the USPS website.

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