Noel, Missouri, Post Office has been a hub of holiday activity for more than 90 years. Photo by Katrina Hine.
Photo by Katrina Hine

Noel, Mo., Post Office has been a hub of holiday activity for more than 90 years

NOEL, MO. – The North Pole is a buzz of activity this time of year as Santa and his crew prepare for their epic flight around the world, but Santa isn’t the only one working to make the season bright.

Each year, between Black Friday and Christmas Eve, volunteers hand stamp tens of thousands of letters, cards and packages with a holiday greeting from Noel, Mo.

Noel (pronounced Nole) is named for early residents Clark Wallace Noel and William Jasper Noel. The brothers owned a sawmill and were stockmen. Noel is also the only community in the U.S. named Noel. 

The Post Office opened in 1886, but it wasn’t until decades later that the community became “The Christmas City in Ozark Vacation Land.”

According to the U.S. Postal Service, Postmaster Edward T. Rousselot was French and knew “Noel” (pronounced No-elle) is “Christmas” in French, and decided to offer a special Christmas cancellation from Noel in 1932. With the help of volunteers, Rousselot started a tradition that continues today.

Mark Inglett, strategic communications specialist for the USPS, said the idea could have been a way to bring a little Christmas cheer during the height of the Great Depression. 

“Folks usually try to find a way to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and find a way to climb out of the bad times and look for the good,” Mark said. “Noel, Mo., is the only Noel in the country, so what better way than to tell the whole country that we’re proud of our town, proud of what we do with the Postal Service, and here’s a way to lift spirits? It just took off.” 

More than nine decades later, the Post Office gets letters and packages from every state and several foreign countries, including Japan and China.

In the 1940s and 1950s, just days before Christmas, more than half a million pieces of mail from all 50 states, Canada, and Mexico arrived in bundles at the Noel Post Office. Over the years, the cancellation has been replaced by a “Pictorial Stamping.”

Volunteers stamp the parcels with four Christmas greeting stamps: A green tree and red wreath (that reads Christmas Greetings Noel, Mo. The Christmas City in Ozark Vacation Land), one red Noel and one Blue Noel. 

“We try to get all four pictorial stamps on there,” Mark explained. 

Last year, more than 60,000 pieces were hand-stamped. 

Each year, a team of volunteers from the Noel area work alongside Post Office staff to get well wishes on the way to their final destinations in time for Christmas. 

“We spread as much Christmas cheer as we can,” Mark said. “We get between 40 and 50 volunteers on a rotating basis. The best part is that the local townspeople know each other, and when they come in, they smile and say they will be back for their shift. They love it and can’t wait to help. The Postmaster is there in the lobby with them to make sure everything goes well and to help out.” 

Noel’s Postmaster since 2012, Don Spiares, will retire at the end of 2023, so this will be his last Christmas season at the Post Office, or will it?

“Don is a great guy,” Mark said. “He will be back to help.” 

How do the parcels get to the Post Office for the unique holiday stamp? Through the mail or they are hand delivered to the Post Office. 

“People will send packages to the Post Office, and they are for us to open,” Mark said. “We will open them up, get the Christmas cards, or whatever, put the special pictorial stamping on them, and send them on their way. This is not a cancellation; it’s a pictorial stamp, so you have to have postage.”

Most are hand-delivered to the Post Office. Mark said some customers plan their vacation routes to include Noel. 

“They come to say they were in the Christmas City,” he said. “People drive a great distance to see what happens and to be a part of this wonderful Christmas tradition. Many want to take pictures in front of our festive painted windows with great excitement to be here.”

On a map in the lobby, customers can pin where they are from when they stop by. The map gets filled up every year. 

Mark has been with USPS for 38 years and visited Noel prior to taking his current position, so Noel has a special place for him at Christmas as well. 

“I make it a point to go down four or five times a year to make contact with media to do stories,” Mark said. “I love it; I just get excited about it. I like to put on a special Christmas jacket and go down. It’s just so much fun because there’s something magical about Christmas that brings hope and good cheer.” 

For some families, the pictorial stamping is a tradition. 

“Last year, we had a gentleman come in to get stamps for his grandchildren,” Mark said. “He said he can remember coming in to get stamps when he was a kid. Helping be a part of a family tradition; it doesn’t get any better than that.” 

Mark added that the Noel Post Office and the USPS are proud to continue offering this small Christmas gift. 

“Bringing hope and joy to people, it’s the best,” he said. “I love working for the Postal Service and what we do, and we are really proud of this.

“Noel is a friendly place year-round, but when it’s Christmas, it’s definitely Noel, Mo. (No-elle), and you can feel the magic in the air,” Mark said. “There are snacks and treats in the lobby, and there’s a tree set up, and you walk into the Noel (No-elle) Post Office.”

There is no charge for the stamp, but for items to reach their destination, senders affix proper postage.

To get a parcel stamped with a holiday greeting from Noel, Mo., items sent should be pre-addressed and have the proper postage affixed. Place all items for pictorial stamping in a package and mail to: 

ATTN: Stamping
318 Main St.
Noel, Mo. 64854-9998


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