How did Bethlehem get the nickname The Christmas Town?
Photo by Wendy Carlson
The town of Bethlehem has for decades been referred to as “the Christmas town.” One of 11 towns nationwide named after the birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem, Connecticut, earned its nickname in 1938 when postmaster Earl S. Johnson created a decorative rubber stamp to be used on holiday mail.
The stamp, now referred to as the Christmas Cachet, was first a drawing by Johnson on a card to his uncle. The original design featured a hollow green Christmas tree with text reading “Merry Christmas from the little town of Bethlehem,” and since, has turned into a holiday legacy known near and far by folks from all 50 states and over 11 countries worldwide.
It’s believed that Johnson’s uncle caused the stamp to go viral by writing about it to a local Chicago newspaper. Soon after word got out, Johnson single-handedly created holiday cheer by using the cachet on outgoing mail during the entire 1938 holiday season. To date, 80 different cachets have been created for the Bethlehem post office by area artists, school children, and postal workers.
During the month of December, the Bethlehem post office becomes one of the busiest USPS centers in New England. The hype of receiving mail postmarked from “The little town of Bethlehem” creates a demand so great, the post office expands their holiday hours to accommodate the influx of mail, which can total over 200,000 letters during the 12th month alone. They resume regular hours and services to 3,400 local residents following Christmas day.