In the digital era, receiving handwritten Christmas cards from family and friends remains one of life’s simple pleasures.
And it is thanks to an army of dedicated staff at Royal Mail that festive cheer in the form of shiny bright-coloured envelopes continues to spread across the nation.
Today workers at the Leeds Mail Centre had their busiest day of the year - as they sorted through a huge pile of 4.2 million letters, cards and parcels - all which need to reach houses across the UK in time for the big day.
Workers in the vast warehouse in South Leeds spend hours carefully scanning and sorting all the post sent and received in Yorkshire - and there are 700 extra staff over Christmas on top of the existing 850 to cope with the extra load.
Modern technology also helps to relieve some of the pressure, with eight machines running in the sorting hall that can each process 20,000 letters an hour.
Plant manager Chis Matson said: “Today is our busiest day of the year at the centre and we are dealing with around 4.2 million items of Christmas mail in the course of the day.
“There are plenty of Christmas cards - plenty of red green and gold envelopes coming through now as the volume of cards is really building.”
And as the rise of online shopping continues, Mr Matson explained that the company has had to adapt over the years.
He said: “We are changing from a letters company that delivers parcels, to a parcels company that delivers letters. Last year we handled around 138 million parcels across the UK during the Christmas period. Letters continue to be a very important part of our business. This means that delivering letters and parcels together is a key driver of efficiency and productivity in our universal service network.”
The letters and cards received are sorted into postal location, before being put into sacks for the waiting postmen and women to take to deliver.
Mr Matson said: “One of the things we always ask people to do is put the postcode on the envelope. That helps us to get it to the right destination.”
And there’s one man in particular who receives an substantial amount of post at this time of year.
Mr Matson said: “As with every year, we are also helping to get letters to Santa and are dealing with hundreds of thousands of children’s letters. As Santa is so busy, children posting cards following the December 8 deadline will still get a reply, but it might be after Christmas.”
The Letters to Santa initiative began in the 1960s, and any child who sent their letter can expect a personal reply from Father Christmas himself.
Mr Matson said: “We are looking forward to Christmas. We have got plenty of Christmas spirit going on in here. There is lots of Christmas cheer going on. We do quite a lot of fundraising at this time of year with the communities that we’ve got in here very keen to support lots of local charities. So there is lots going on for us.”
• The last posting dates for Christmas are Wednesday, December 20 for second-class mail and Thursday, December 21 for first class.
• Royal Mail recommends that people post early to help ensure cards, letters and parcels arrive in time for Christmas Day.