By Claire West

Royal Mail is encouraging customers to post their festive greetings early, and order their online gifts and shopping well in advance, to help its postmen and women deliver the bumper festive mailbag.

Its latest recommended posting dates for mail to arrive in time for Christmas are:

Last posting dates for delivery within the UK:
• 1st Class Thursday 20th December
• 2nd Class Tuesday 18th December
• Special Delivery Saturday 22nd December
Last posting dates for international mail:
• Airmail to Asia, Far East (including Japan), Australia, New Zealand, Wednesday 5th December
• Airmail to South and Central America, Caribbean, Africa, Middle East, Friday 7th December
• Airmail to USA, Canada and Eastern Europe: Monday 10th December
• Airmail to Western Europe: Wednesday 12th December