Christmas: Just where did all those traditions come from?
Who doesn't like Christmas?
Free gifts, tons of parties, good will and merriment abound, festive lights decorating everything...
It's a beautiful holiday.
But where did all those Christmas traditions come from?
Who came up with the idea to string lights on almost everything? Why do we give presents? Why do we chop down Christmas trees?
While many skeptics argue that Christmas is all about Jesus Christ's birth, even more claim our lovely traditions came from Pagan practices. Here are a bunch of traditions we generally uphold that do indeed come from Pagan ideals.
Following all references, there will be a link that looks like this: [#] You can follow this link to the article referred to, though I will say I'll mainly be using Wikipedia. It is my friend, and I've yet to have problems with it. I have not gone into Wikipedia and edited any of the articles (like I know how to do that?); what you see on that site is what I've posted.
I cannot say it better myself, so I'm posting the article section I found in Wikipedia about Christmas's origins:
A winter festival was traditionally the most popular festival of the year in many cultures. Reasons included less agricultural work needing to be done during the winter, as well as people expecting longer days and shorter nights after the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere.In part, the Christmas celebration was created by the early Church in order to entice pagan Romans to convert to Christianity without losing their own winter celebrations. Certain prominent gods and goddesses of other religions in the region had their birthdays celebrated on December 25, including Ishtar, Babylonian goddess of fertility, love, and war, Sol Invictus and Mithras. Modern Christmas with pagan customs include: gift-giving and merrymaking from Roman Saturnalia; greenery, lights, and charity from the Roman New Year; and Yule logs and various foods from Teutonic feasts. Such traditions are considered to have been syncretised from winter festivals including the following:
Natalis Solis Invicti
Mosaic of Jesus Christ depicted as Sol (the Sun god) in Mausoleum M in the pre-fourth-century necropolis under St Peter's Basilica in Rome. It is named Christo Sole (Christ the Sun) and is dated to the late 3rd century by the Italian archaeologists.
The Romans held a festival on December 25 called Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, "the birthday of the undefeated sun." The use of the title Sol Invictus allowed several solar deities to be worshipped collectively, including Elah-Gabal, a Syrian sun god; Sol, the god of Emperor Aurelian (AD 270-274); and Mithras, a soldiers' god of Persian origin. Emperor Elagabalus (218-222) introduced the festival, and it reached the height of its popularity under Aurelian, who promoted it as an empire-wide holiday.
December 25 was considered the day upon which the winter solstice, which the Romans called bruma, fell. (When Julius Caesar introduced the Julian Calendar in 45 BC, December 25 was approximately the date of the solstice. In modern times, the solstice falls on December 21 or 22.) It is the day the Sun proves itself to be "unconquered" and begins its movement toward the north on the horizon. The Sol Invictus festival has a "strong claim on the responsibility" for the date of Christmas, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia. Several early Christian writers connected the rebirth of the sun to the birth of Jesus "O, how wonderfully acted Providence that on that day on which that Sun was born . . . Christ should be born", Cyprian wrote.
Pagan Scandinavia celebrated a winter festival called Yule, held in the late December to early January period. Yule logs were lit to honor Thor, the god of thunder, with the belief that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year. Feasting would continue until the log burned out, which could take as many as twelve days. In pagan Germania (not to be confused with Germany), the equivalent holiday was the mid-winter night which was followed by 12 "wild nights", filled with eating, drinking and partying. As Northern Europe was the last part to Christianize, its pagan celebrations had a major influence on Christmas. Scandinavians still call Christmas Jul. In English, the Germanic word Yule is synonymous with Christmas, a usage first recorded in 900.
Origen, a father of the Christian church, argued against the celebration of birthdays, including the birth of Christ.
It is unknown exactly when or why December 25 became associated with Christ's birth. The New Testament does not give a specific date. Sextus Julius Africanus popularized the idea that Christ was born on December 25 in his Chronographiai, a reference book for Christians written in AD 221. This date is nine months after the traditional date of the Incarnation (March 25), now celebrated as the Feast of the Annunciation. March 25 was considered to be the date of the vernal equinox and early Christians believed this was also the date Christ was crucified. The Christian idea that Christ was conceived on the same date that he died on the cross is consistent with a Jewish belief that a prophet lived an integral number of years.
The celebration of Christmas as a feast did not arise for some time after Chronographai was published. Tertullian does not mention it as a major feast day in the Church of Roman Africa. In 245, the theologian Origen denounced the idea of celebrating Christ's birthday "as if he were a king pharaoh". He contended that only sinners, not saints, celebrated their birthdays.
The earliest reference to the celebration of the nativity on December 25 is found in the Chronography of 354, an illuminated manuscript compiled in Rome in 354. In the East, early Christians celebrated the birth of Christ as part of Epiphany (January 6), although this festival focused on the baptism of Jesus.
Christmas was promoted in the Christian East as part of the revival of Catholicism following the death of the pro-Arian Emperor Valens at the Battle of Adrianople in 378. The feast was introduced to Constantinople in 379, and to Antioch in about 380. The feast disappeared after Gregory of Nazianzus resigned as bishop in 381, although it was reintroduced by John Chrysostom in about 400.
The Twelve Days of Christmas are the twelve days from the day after Christmas Day, December 26, which is St. Stephen's Day, to the Feast of Epiphany on January 6 that encompass the major feasts surrounding the birth of Christ. In the Latin Rite, one week after Christmas Day, January 1, has traditionally been the celebration the Feast of the Naming and Circumcision of Christ, but since Vatican II, this feast has been celebrated as the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.
In some traditions the 12 days of Christmas start on Christmas Day (25 December) and the 12th day is therefore 5 January."
"A Christmas tree, Yule tree, holiday tree or Tannenbaum (German: fir tree) is one of the most popular traditions associated with the celebration of Christmas. It is normally an evergreen coniferous tree that is brought into a home or used in the open, and is decorated with Christmas lights and colorful ornaments during the days around Christmas. An angel or star is often placed at the top of the tree, representing the host of angels or the Star of Bethlehem from the Nativity story." 
Christmas trees weren't always for Christians. They held special significance for Germanic tribes in Scandinavia. In one tribe, kinds would sacrifice nine males of nine species in sacred grove every nine years (the number 9 held great importance in Norse Mythology).
Saint Boniface is credited with inventing the Christmas tree itself; he'd chopped down the Oak of Thor, a very important tree, in order to confront the old gods and beliefs. A fir tree then grew from the roots of this almighty oak, and was declared the new symbol. It represented Jesus through it's evergreen branches (light even in the darkest days) and pointed toward the heavens as a sign to God.
Traditional adornments were generally small things children found on Christmas Day, such as berries, nuts, fruits and paper flowers the children made. Lights weren't a big thing until Martin Luther (the dude that came up with the Lutheran Doctrine) decided to put them on there. Oh, and did I mention in his time, Christmas trees were hung upside down? Yeah, he put them upright for us. Supposedly, anyway.
Christmas trees weren't really popular back then, either. Catholics weren't their #1 fans. They found them distracting from the word of God. It wasn't until royals discovered this tradition and started doing it themselves when the tradition really boomed.
"You better watch out, you better not cry; You better not pout, I'm tellin' you why; Santa Claus is comin' to town..."
Santa's known by many names. To most he is Santa Claus, but to others, he is also Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas or St. Nikolaus, Sinterklaas, Kris Kringle, Père Noël, Joulupukki, Babbo Natale, Weihnachtsmann, Saint Basil and Father Frost).  Father Christmas was originally portrayed as a drunk and happy fellow associated with holidy merriment and drinking rather than gift-giving. Most of the other Santas were changed to represent the German-American Thomas Nast's image of Santa Claus, which he drew annually beginning in 1863. La Benfana, an Italian Santa-like character, is said to have gotten lost while bringing gifts to Baby Jesus, so now brings gifts to children everywhere instead. In some cultures, Santa is accompanied by a group of "helpers" called Knecht Ruprecht, or Black Peter. I'm not sure what you'll make of the Knecht Ruprecht, so I'm not going to interpret those characters. In other cultures, he's helped by elves, and his wife is known as Mrs. Claus.
The German St. Nikolaus and the Weihnachtsman (the dude who brings the gifts to the German kids) are not the same person; St. Nikolaus wears what looks like a bishop's dress and only gives out little gifts on December 6th, usually little nuts, candies or fruits.
What I Think
Disclaimer: This section is what I believe, and some of it is based on facts. You don't have to believe what I believe; you have the right to decide for yourself, y'know.
I personally believe Christmas has little to do with Jesus Christ. Sure, yeah, Jesus was a great guy and all. But here's something to ponder:
In the story of the Nativity, shepherds were out in their fields with the sheep. Now, if it were winter, it would be too cold for the shepherds to be out there at night. How could Jesus have been born in December when it was that darn cold out, and the shepherds wouldn't have been outside to see the Angel and gone to him?
The answer: Jesus was actually born in the summer.
Ah, how I love the History Channel...
I also don't believe in immaculate conception. Then again, I am not Christian, so don't go bashing me for that, mmkay? I honestly think that Jesus was born out of wedlock, and in an attempt to hide it, was claimed as an immaculate conception. I have a hard time believing that God would go all out for one little boy. The Christians went to way too much trouble to destroy any book they did not deem suitable for the Bible, and they beat it hard into Heathen heads that their views were not right, their beliefs were evil and wicked, and those who did not accept Jesus and God were to be damned forever, even though a lot of the Christian traditions of today were stolen from Pagan traditions.
Where do you think Halloween comes from? Or Valentine's Day? Even Easter was stolen from Pagans in an attempt to make Christian conversion easier.
Most of our traditions were taken from early Pagans because they just couldn't live without their holidays and rituals. Thus, early Christians had to change them to make them more Pagan-converting-to-Christian-friendly.
Those are my views. Attack me if you will, but I will believe what I will believe, and you cannot change my mind for me.