HENRY COUNTY, Ky. (FOX 56) — The small community of Bethlehem, population about 160, sees increased traffic each December, as people find their way to the post office.

In 1947, postmaster Anna Laura Peyton designed an image to be rubber-stamped on Christmas cards, depicting Three Wise Men following a star. Paired with the Bethlehem postmark, it became a sought-after item.

Peyton was postmaster for more than 40 years, and as the stamp grew in popularity, she found herself quite busy each December. Volunteers helped her add the image to the cards. Her granddaughter, Melinda Spear, said some years the tiny post office handled more than 100,000 Christmas cards.

The tradition continued when Spear’s uncle, Cecil Peyton, took over. And in 2020, Spear became the postal clerk in Bethlehem, making her the third generation of the same family to carry on the Christmas custom.

The post office is now open just two hours each weekday and four hours on Saturday. Spear believes it’s the Christmas postmark that has saved this post office from the chopping block at a time when so many smaller offices have been eliminated.

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“December is my anchor month,” she said. “It’s the one that keeps us here for the year.”

Fewer people send holiday cards these days, but Spear still expects to hand cancel more than 10,000 cards with the Christmas stamp. She said she still gets them in from all over the U.S., as well as England, Scotland, Japan, and a few other countries. Many of the requests for the cancellation come from collectors.

How to get your cards postmarked in Bethlehem, Spear offers this advice:

You can place all of your cards in a large envelope or box and mail them to the Bethlehem Post Office, 3946 Bethlehem Rd., Bethlehem, KY 40007

You can send cards that already have postage on them, but Spear requests that you leave them unstamped and include a check for the correct postage amount, made out to Bethlehem Post Office. The revenue will help her office stay open.

Leave as much blank space as you can on the front of the envelope to the left of the address. That will make it easier to apply the stamped image of the Wise Men. You may also consider putting your return address on the back of the envelope instead of in the left-hand corner.

It’s a small office with limited hours, so the earlier you can send your cards, the better.