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ARLINGTON, Va. — Whether you celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or just a mid-winter break, it's time to get those packages in the mail to loved ones stationed overseas.

Postal officials have announced this year's shipping deadlines for delivery by Dec. 25. Mail being shipped from overseas bases back to the United States follows generally the same guidelines, even though it travels slightly differently through the military postal system.

Mailing items early is always a good idea to beat the holiday rush, postal service officials said.

In addition to the First Class and Priority Mail services most people use, the U.S. Post Office is highlighting less-familiar services for family and friends sending packages to servicemembers overseas.

Express Mail Military Service provides quicker delivery and is available at selected military post offices.

Another less-familiar service is Parcel Airlift Mail, which provides air transportation for packages on a space-available basis. The Post Office offers this option for items not exceeding 30 pounds in weight or 60 inches in length and girth combined.

A third option is Space Available Mail, which uses surface transportation domestically to move a parcel that has been paid at Parcel Post rates and then shifts to air transport to move it overseas on a space-available basis.

The maximum weight and size limits of a package sent this way are 15 pounds and 60 inches in length and girth combined.

For more information, go to the Postal Service Web site at www.usps.com.

E-mail Lisa Burgess at: burgessl@stripes.osd.mil

Suggested deadlines

Here are the suggested mailing deadlines for APO/FPO addresses overseas with zip codes 090 to 092 (Germany), 094 (United Kingdom), 095 (ships at sea), 096 (Italy and Spain), 097 (other European locations), 098 (Middle East and Africa), 340 (Central and South America), 962 (Korea), 963 (Japan), 964 (the Philippines), 965 and 966 (other Pacific locations):

First-Class letters and cards should be in the mail by Dec. 11;Express Mail Military Service: Dec. 19;Priority Mail: Dec. 19;Parcel Post: Nov. 13;Parcel Airlift Mail: Dec. 4;and Space Available Mail: Nov. 27.For APO/FPO AE addresses with the ZIP code 093 (areas like Iraq and Afghanistan), the deadlines are slightly different:

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