Historically, Christmas sprang from Pagan roots. Celebrations that spawned Christmas tradition were around long before the date of the birth of Christ. Many historians say that Christ wasn't even born in December, but was most likely born in September about six months after Passover.
|(Left: Saturn; Right: Mummers)|
|(Pagan Year Wheel)|
|(Left: Yule Log for burning; Right: Yule Log cake)|
|(Left: Mistletoe; Right: Holly King / Spirit of Yule)|
|(My fake tree)|
|(Left: Tree Farm)|
As part of Winter Solstice celebrations, live evergreen trees were brought into homes. They were decorated with candles instead of lights. A star or Angel was placed at the top to represent the Star of Bethlehem, or the host of Angels.
The declaration of December 25th as the day for the celebration of Christ's birthday is said to have been given by Pope Julius I. It is said that he picked that day to make the presence of a new religion more palatable to the Romans who celebrated Saturnalia during that time. Having Christmas and Saturnalia celebrations in tandem made the new religion go down a bit easier since they would still have their feasts.
As to where Christmas as it is known today originated, many historians agree that it started in Germany because early records describe an evergreen tree being decorated ( "Weihnachtsbaum") as a part of a Christian celebration in the Alsace region of Germany in the 16th Century. It can also be traced earlier to 15th Century Livonia (Latvia and Estonia in the present-day).
What traditions am I going to honor this year? Well, it will just be two of us here on the marsh (no complaints there). There will be some present opening, and some phone calls to relatives in other states. I would love to observe the tradition of burning the Yule log, but we might get a fine out of it. I expect I'll just play things by ear, and see where the spirit takes me.