I remember a lot of different things from Christmas past. When I was a child, we always waited until Christmas Eve to put up the tree. Because anything earlier than that might interfere with Advent. And we always had our creche under the tree. I understand this is a German tradition, and there are lots of Germans on both sides of my family.
I like having the creche under the tree. It is in front. Presents go behind. And that is how it should be. The presents are nice, but the message of the manger should be primary. God came to earth as a child, helpless and poor. As Brennan Manning puts it:
God entered our world not with the crushing impact of unbearable glory, but in the way of weakness, vulnerability, and need. On a wintry night in an obscure cave, the infant Jesus was a humble, naked, helpless God who allowed us to get close to Him.
I can’t stop the rampant consumerism of Christmas. Last year I saw commercials of couples buying luxury SUVs for each other. This year, they went even further and ran commercials of people purchasing luxury vehicles for themselves for Christmas. It is a little jarring in how far away that is from the message of Jesus in the stable. The message of the manger is a message of less for ourselves, not more.
So I like keeping Christmas simple. We don’t generally spend a lot on gifts. It is more about time together. We do a gift exchange, but it is usually filled with things like board games and jigsaw puzzles. the real gift is the time we spend together doing these things while everyone is home.