I'm sure most people fighting "the war on Christmas" today have no idea that the Dec. 25 date for Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with the birth of Jesus. It was established on the winter solstice in order to co-opt the celebrations of much older religions. Likewise, most "traditonal" Christmas symbols so vociferously defended by rabid regressive Christians have their roots in pre-Christian religions.
The Puritans could have hardly been mistaken for the ACLU. Yet, they banned Christmas, because of the above mentioned facts.
The Puritans banned Christmas in New England. Even as late as 1851, a Cleveland minister nearly lost his job because he allowed a tree in his church.
The Egyptians were part of a long line of cultures that treasured and worshipped evergreens. When the winter solstice arrive, they brought green date palm leaves into their homes to symbolize life's triumph over death.
The Romans celebrated the winter solstice with a fest called Saturnalia in honor of Saturnus, the god of agriculture. They decorated their houses with greens and lights and exchanged gifts. They gave coins for prosperity, pastries for happiness, and lamps to light one's journey through life.
Centuries ago in Great Britain, woods priests called Druids used evergreens during mysterious winter solstice rituals. The Druids used holly and mistletoe as symbols of eternal life, and place evergreen branches over doors to keep away evil spirits.
Late in the Middle Ages, Germans and Scandinavians placed evergreen trees inside their homes or just outside their doors to show their hope in the forthcoming spring. Our modern Christmas tree evolved from these early traditions.
Even before the Christian era, trees and boughs were used for ceremonials. Egyptians, in celebrating the winter solstice -- the shortest day of the year -- brought green date palms into their homes as a symbol of "life triumphant over death". When the Romans observed the feast of saturn, part of the ceremony was the raising of an evergreen bough. The early Scandinavians were said to have paid homage to the fir tree.
To the Druids, sprigs of evergreen holly in the house meant eternal life; while to the Norsemen, they symbolized the revival of the sun god Balder. To those inclined toward superstition, branches of evergreens placed over the door kept out witches, ghosts, evil spirits and the like.http://www.christmas-tree.com/where.html
Origin of the the name Santa Claus
The name of Santa Claus is said to derive from Nicolaus (Greek: victory and people), but also the Latin “claudere” (close, lock) or even “claudus” (lame) could be hidden in it. The first would fit Santa (closing the Old Year and unlocking the New Year), the second would fit to the horseshoed demon-companion, like Hephaistos and Mephistos with his lame foot, as we will see later. That the terms Santa and Satan equal each other by exchanging only one letter suggests that they are closely related as it happens often with great antagonists. The Dutch Sinterclaas might etymologically be related to Sintflut (deluge) which in ancient starlore represented the flood of stars of Milky Way as we will see later.The Shaft or Chimney
The metaphor of the shaft is similar to many fairy tale caves, which often magically open and give free treasures or bewitched princesses or make the hero a king or emperor.The Sledge or Sleigh
An unmistakeable attribute of Santa Claus is his sledge, which we find depicted in uncountable Nordic petroglyphs, often loaded with a tree or a Sun symbol.The Tree
The tree that is carried by Santa Claus may be found in old petroglyphs as well as in rural tradition at the spring equinox or on May 1st. A calendrical connection to both of these dates is found not only at the beginning of spring in the common calendar (now March 19th – 20th) and Beltaine in the former spring festival in the Celtic calendar (May 1st) but also the name day of Jesus' father Joseph, whose feast is liturgically celebrated on both days. Behind the erection of a stake monument at the cardinal points of the year, e.g. the Yule-tree, is the idea of showing that celestial movements are involved in calendrical rule on earth.The Stag
The sledge of Santa Claus is pulled by at least one stag or reindeer called Rudolf.
A view to the constellations and a comparison with a presumably old, but modernized German poem of unknown origin, gives further calendrical and astronomical hints that the “Holy Eve Man” comes from the sky, but in respect of his due-to-precession shifted seasonal position.http://www.rkdn.org/alternative/Santa.asp