Yuletide once represented the rebirth of the sun, during the period of sun-worshiping religions such as druidism. It was believed in some cultures that the sun was born in the morning, rode across the sky during the day, and sank into its grave in the evening. The people of these cultures were surely dismayed that the sun seemed to grow weaker and weaker as the year wore on, and after the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, the sun would seem to grow stronger and stronger as the days grew longer, as though it had been reborn. Therefore, the ancients held a large feast to celebrate the rebirth of the sun and the lengthening of days.
Christian religion began to grow
When the Christian religion began to grow, there was no certain date of the birth of Jesus Christ, who they believed to be the messiah. His birth was celebrated on dates all through December and January, but December twenty-fifth was usually the favorite date for the celebration because it had been the old date of the Yuletide festival.
The Christian tradition of giving presents probably stems from Saturnalia, celebrated by the Romans, but there are also stories in the Norse mythology about gifts. In Norse Mythology the sun god, Balder, could not be harmed by any element but mistletoe, so Loki, the god of fire, went to find a bough of mistletoe, which he ended up finding on a slope of Valhalla. When he came back into the giant hall, all the gods and goddesses were amusing themselves by throwing darts and weapons such as axes and spears at Balder. Loki gave the bough of Mistletoe to the blind god Hoder and told him to throw it at Balder. Balder fell down dead with the bough of Mistletoe through his heart, and the gods would certainly have killed him had it not occurred during their peace-stead, which was a time without violence and of goodwill towards man. The gods and goddesses lay gifts on the Balder’s bier, and he sent gifts back to them from the underworld.
The druids also held the mistletoe in great reverence because of its mysterious birth. When they noticed the first growth of mistletoe, they would cut it off the plant with a golden scythe that was used for no other purpose. So, kissing under the mistletoe might not be as random as some people like to think.
The Christmas ham can be attributed to earlier pagan religions as well. Supposedly, the gods fed the fallen heroes a sacred boar during a feast, which was so fortifying that the heroes called for arms and began to fight their battles all over again.
Yuletide was often celebrated with a great bonfire
In the northern cultures of the world, Yuletide was often celebrated with a great bonfire to burn away all the evils of the last year and to be reborn from the fire for the coming year. In the Christian world, protestants used to decorate Christmas trees with candles, and currently, people hang lights around their houses, around their windows, on their Christmas trees, and anywhere else they see fit.
The Gradual shift in the nature of Yuletide from pagan sun-god worship to Christ-worship
The Christian church did very well to copy the traditions of the old religions when the church was spreading. There was a very gradual shift in the nature of Yuletide from pagan sun-god worship to Christ-worship, and now this season is dominated by Christmas with the minority of people celebrating Yuletide. It would’ve been harder to get people to convert to Christianity if the Christian church had attempted to completely change the traditions of the old world, and so it was smart of them to allow the old traditions to continue with a slight change in focus.