The United States Postal Service has good news for those procrastinators who still haven't shipped their Christmas packages to loved ones: You still have time.
Just not much.
In fact, the USPS had only one piece of advice for those who still haven't sent all of their presents, letters and cards.
"Mail today," said Valerie Hughes, spokeswoman for the USPS' Gateway District, which includes Southern Illinois. "The sooner, the better."
There were longer-than-usual lines and full parking lots at post offices across Southern Illinois and nationwide Monday, as the USPS dealt with its busiest day of the year for receiving packages. Nationwide, the USPS expected to receive about 800 million pieces of mail Monday, Hughes said. In an average day, the USPS receives about 559 million pieces of mail.
Monday was the last recommended day for people to send letters or cards via standard mail and still have them arrive before Christmas. Packages sent today should be mailed via Priority Mail, which is the USPS' two-day delivery option, and anything sent later than today should be sent via Express Mail to ensure its delivery by the holiday.
Wednesday is expected to be the busiest mail delivery day of the year, although deliveries will be made throughout the week, including on Christmas Day for Express Mail packages.
To help deal with the rush, several post offices across the nation hire extra help, known as "Christmas casuals." Those temporary employees usually work no more than 90 days.
Despite the amount of mail coming through the system this week, Hughes said the USPS wouldn't rush the way they handle packages, or do anything that would potentially damage a package.
"We don't change the way we do our processing," Hughes said. "We may add a few trucks along the way, or a few elves along the way, but we still handle America's mail with care. ... We have it about down to a science by now."