The holiday mailing season is officially here and the US Postal Service has announced their "mail by" dates.  Looks like it's going to be a very busy season for the postal service!

15 billion pieces of mail will be processed by the postal service between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve and the Postmaster General expects to see a dramatic increase in the number of holiday packages this year too.

According to usatoday.com, approximately 420 million packages will be delivered this year, an increase of 12% from last year.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

To make sure your packages and letters arrive by Christmas Day, first class domestic mail must be postmarked by December 20th.  Standard military mail must be postmarked by November 12th.

If you don't like waiting in long lines at the post office, you might want to avoid December 16th.  It's predicted to be the busiest mailing day.  Can you say 600 million pieces?  Wow. Give your mail carrier a smile on December 18th, the busiest mail delivery day.  Things calm down a bit after the 19th but it's still going to be a busy one for the postal service.

Don't forget, you can always use www.usps.com to save yourself some time.