RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Santa and his elves aren’t the only ones working hard this holiday season. The United States Postal Service might be making just a few more stops than the man in the big red sleigh.

8News got a behind-the-scenes tour of the busiest week in a USPS year. The postal service expects to distribute 2.5 billion pieces of mail and packages this week.

“It’s a 24/7 facility,” said Deshon Scott-Hopwood, senior plant manager of Richmond Processing and Distribution Center. “It expands over 700,000 square feet, over 12 football fields in length.”

And the facility is full of staff that carefully separate and organize your Christmas gifts so they arrive to your loved ones in great condition.

USPS says if you want your gifts under the tree by Christmas morning, to ship them by the following dates:

  • Dec. 20 First Class Mail
  • Dec. 21 Priority Mail
  • Dec. 23 Priority Mail Express

However, being on time won’t matter if you don’t protect your packages.

“Don’t leave your packages unattended. If those are coming in, make that walk to the porch and pick em up,” said Michael Romano, U.S. Postal Inspector, says. “Don’t leave them out overnight.”

USPS wants everyone to remember the hardworking people who help make Christmas happen every year.

“We’ve been doing this for over 200 years. It is our bread and butter and employees love trying to get the mail home this time of year. It’s their friends, their families, their loved ones that are also delivering the mail packages and its kinda great to be that Santa Claus this time of year for everyone,” Scott-Hopwood said..

Post Offices nationwide will be closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Follow 8News Digital Reporter Tyler Thrasher on Twitter for more digital exclusives!