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The post office says check your mailbox on Dec. 17

Christmas card season is here. We break down the numbers.

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The first Christmas card in December 1843.
The first Christmas card in December 1843.Getty Images

CHRISTMAS CARDS: A HISTORY

1843 — British illustrator John Callcott Horsley creates the world's first commercial Christmas card for Sir Henry Cole of London. Many disliked the image of drinking and merriment — especially the Puritans.

1875 — Boston lithographer Louis Prang publishes the first American Christmas card, consisting of an inoffensive flower design and the simple words "Merry Christmas."

1915 — The first Christmas cards are produced by Hallmark, which now offers more than 2,700 designs for Christmas alone.

BREAKING DOWN THE 6.5 BILLION GREETING CARDS AMERICANS BUY ANNUALLY

Christmas — 1.6 billion

Valentine's Day — 145 million (not including classroom valentines)

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Mother's Day — 133 million

Father's Day — 90 million

Graduation — 67 million

Easter — 57 million

Halloween — 21 million

Thanksgiving — 15 million

St. Patrick's Day — 7 million

WATCH YOUR MAILBOXES: The US Postal Service expects Wednesday, December 17, will be its busiest delivery day for cards and letters.

145,000 — Estimated number of seasonal workers UPS and FedEx combined are hiring to handle increased shipping — and avoid the missed deliveries of Christmas 2013

BUSIEST DAY OF THE YEAR:

UPS — Monday, December 22

FedEx — Monday, December 15

US Postal Service — Monday, December 15

PIECES DELIVERED OR PROCESSED THAT DAY:

UPS — 34 million packages delivered worldwide

FedEx — 22.6 million packages delivered worldwide

US Postal Service — 640 million cards, letters, and packages processed in the US

PIECES EXPECTED TO BE DELIVERED DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON:

UPS — more than 585 million packages during the month of December

FedEx — 290 million packages between Black Friday and Christmas Eve

US Postal Service — 15.5 billion cards, letters, and packages between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve

SHIPPING DEADLINES FOR CHRISTMAS EVE ARRIVAL:

UPS — December 22 for 2d Day Air and December 23 for Next Day Air

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FedEx — It depends on where you live. Consult fedex.com/us/holiday.

US Postal Service — December 15 for domestic Standard Post, December 20 for First-Class and Priority Mail, and December 23 for Priority Mail Express

Related coverage:

- Holidays come early for greeting card designer

- More from the Magazine


SOURCES: Greeting Card Association; Hallmark; UPS; US Postal Service; FedEx