With absentee ballots for the presidential election out of the way, the U.S. Postal Service and its military counterpart are switching gears to concentrate on the holidays.

The first mailing deadline that most servicemembers stationed overseas should pay attention to is Nov. 28, when space-available packages must be mailed to ensure they are delivered by Dec. 25.

But one deadline falls this week. Thursday marks the parcel post deadline for those sending packages to military addresses overseas by the slowest — and least expensive — method.

An e-mail message sent by U.S. Air Forces in Europe notes that parcel post is mainly used by commercial mailers in the States when they don’t pay for priority delivery. In Europe, it applies to mail sent via crates that travel on ship and is received by those in the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Other locations receive mail only by air.

So those shopping online for gifts that will be sent to Europe should note what kind of mail service the company uses if they want Santa Claus to have enough time to deliver it. Many online merchants offer quicker delivery for those willing to pay more postage.

Other important dates to note for those planning to send packages or letters to the States (with the delivery time shorter and postage more expensive progressively): Dec. 4, standard delivery; Dec. 11, priority mail, and Dec. 18, express mail.

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