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Since our children were very young, we have had the tradition at Christmas time of exchanging homemade Christmas cards within our family. The practice has provided some of our most cherished holiday memories.

Initially, we created homemade cards for two practical purposes: to use the piles of old Christmas cards we had received in past years, and to have something for the children to open on Christmas Eve to help them wait until the next morning to open anything else.But through the years, the tradition has grown to mean much more. Finished cards often tell of our love for the Savior, for the beautiful spirit of Christmas and the family member for whom they were made. The cards have been surprisingly creative in art and verse, while also expressing deep personal feelings of love and appreciation.

For more than 25 years as children have grown and grandchildren have come, this very significant tradition has been a constant thread woven among the tapestry of our Christmas season.

Early in December we draw names during a family home evening, then spend the rest of the evening and often subsequent time making the cards. They are typically made from construction paper, combined with cut up parts from old cards and other varied artistic touches.

Upon completion, the cards are wrapped in Christmas paper and placed on the tree. On Christmas Eve, following a family program of singing, scriptures and an enactment of the Christmas story, they are exchanged and opened. Each family member shows his or her card to the others and reads the accompanying verse. This is always a magic moment. Only then does each person know who made the cards. The deep feelings of love expressed for the Christ child and for the individual by a family member always help fill our home with love and the true spirit of Christmas.

Now that our children are grown and gone from home, we continue this tradition with them, their spouses and their children.

Through the years as our sons served missions, we always included them. One of our most memorable experiences was when we gathered on Christmas Eve and realized we were one card short. We hadn't heard from our son, Tyler, who was serving a mission in Italy.

Suddenly, someone realized that no one had checked the mailbox that day. One of the children ran outside and came back in with a "homemade" card from Elder Pinegar - lovingly created in a foreign land thousands of miles away.