Tara Bone,  contributing writer

Custom portraits by Cache Valley Artist Karin Hochstrasser make fun and unique Christmas cards.

Some call those who dash to the mailbox the day after Thanksgiving seeking Christmas cards impractical and old-fashioned. Others call them relationship builders and memory keepers. Either way, since England’s Sir Henry Cole mailed the first Christmas card in 1843 as a way to maintain correspondence, the tradition stuck and Hallmark estimates that Americans mail 1.18 billion Christmas cards each year.

Custom portraits by Cache Valley Artist Karin Hochstrasser make fun and unique Christmas cards.

It would be easy to drop the Christmas card tradition altogether with busy schedules and tight family budgets. But why not consider rethinking the tradition? Send fewer cards and change your perspective of what a Christmas card must be. For those who aren’t sure what the fuss is about the tradition, what follows is a case for Christmas cards (I’ll do my best to represent fellow card lovers).

There’s nothing like receiving a Christmas card in the mail. All year long, it’s the doldrums of bills and ads, but for one month the mail is full of glorious greetings from friends and family. There’s something special about the tangible feel of the envelope and card, and even seeing a loved one’s handwriting (beat that Facebook).

And let’s face it; Christmas magic can dim as we age. But sending heartfelt, humorous, or creative Christmas greetings via snail mail spreads all the happy feels. The anticipation of tearing open and enjoying each card is the epitome of Christmas cheer. There’s always that one friend or family member whose card makes you laugh out loud every year.

Some argue that friends and family can keep in touch through social media. But what about those who (gasp) aren’t on social media? And even if they are, many choose to be selective about sharing. Over the years, it’s special to receive photos and messages from those you love at different stages of their lives — it’s like freezing time once each year.

All those beautiful cards make one-of-a-kind, meaningful décor! On ribbons, atop the mantle, around a doorway, or even taped to a wall, displaying brightly colored cards and faces of loved ones is a special holiday tradition. Children can become familiar with friends and family, and in a way those loved ones become part of our holiday celebrations.

Christmas cards maintain connections through time and distance. More than once, after sending cards, I’ve received a return letter sharing that a friend’s health has declined or someone has passed away recently.

For Karin Hochstrasser, a local artist, business owner, and mother, Christmas cards provide a way for her family to keep in touch with loved ones and preserve family history. She feels slowing down to read and reflect on each card is a practice in mindfulness.

“I’m a big fan of Christmas cards,” she said. “There’s something about them. It’s a way of bringing family into our homes and gathering when we’re busy. It’s a way to remember and show that relationships matter.”

Karin and her family moved nine times before moving to Hyrum. She says exchanging Christmas cards every year is an important way to stay connected to friends from those moves. She also feels it’s a great way to keep family history. Their family has a box with every Hochstrasser Christmas card from the last 19 years.

Karin gets a unique glimpse into the meaning of Christmas cards for families all over the country, and even the world. Since 2015, Karin has created countless custom portraits and Christmas cards on her Etsy shop at inkpuddlesbykarin.etsy.com

You could say Karin is a Christmas card expert, and she has lots of advice. So, whether you’re a Christmas card enthusiast who wants fresh ideas, or are nervous to send your first card, check out Cache Valley Family Magazine’s ideas and tips below from Karin and other Christmas card gurus.