It’s about time for one of these, so I distilled the cores of a few pages on the topic.
Gifts were exchanged in winter as a part of Saturnalia, the celebration of Saturn, their god of agriculture. The presents were originally “lucky” fruits called “Stenae”. The comment “All ranks devoted themselves to feasting & mirth with presents exchanged among friends” is common.
Mistletoe is a druidic solstice custom, as is kissing under it (a fertility ritual). It was considered a divine plant & it symbolised love & peace.
Scandinavian Yuletide gives cold climates the Yule (roughly, “return of the sun” where the sun was defined as Mithras) log. A large log was set to burning, nominally for twelve days, from which we get “the 12 days of xmas”.
The 25th of December comes straight from Mithraism by agency of the Roman emperor Constantine. There is no written-out date for Jesus’ birthday, but the middle of a freezing cold winter night seems an odd point for shepherds to be out & about with their flocks. The best-looking of many guesses I’ve found says 29th of September, plus or minus a few days.
The 25th of December was also celebrated as the Day of the Son of Isis in ancient Babylon. We also get the importance of Sundays from Mithra via Babylon.
A mock King was elected, corresponding to the ceremony of Twelfth Night.
Xmas human sacrifices were once offered in the worship of Moloch, Ishtar & other deities.
Ophalia celebrations once took place on the 2nd through 7th days. Ophalia was said to be Saturn’s wife.
The Romans worshipped “Mother Goddess” in this season, & her lover/son. This role was later adopted by “the Virgin Mary”. The Greeks preferred gentler Adonis.
A variant of this called Elagabalism was derived from Persian rituals, with a dash of Isis &/or Cybele for flavour. The Saturnalia blended through this into the Solstice festival. Riotous (sometimes literally) eating, drinking & present-swapping typified these celebrations.
The Egyptians represented the newly-reborn sun as an infant which they brought out at this time and exhibited. The sun’s mother was often Astarte.
The three wise men don’t exactly happen; they’re replaced by three kings, Caspar, Melchior & Balthasar, who are often symbolised as healers in rituals by three nails, like the ancient French Celtic system.
The Festival of Fools was practiced in France at Xmas, with a mock king & mocking parodies of serious civil & religious ceremonies.
Candles were lit during Xmas to ward off the gods of thunder, storm & tempest, &/or to ward away witches.
The Aryan religion from the Vedic age in India also used Xmas candles to pass “holy fire” from a bonfire out to fires in individual fireplaces. This became Shamanism & Animism via Babylon.
The Weather for the next 12 months was said to be determined by the weather on each of the twelve days of Xmas. Various forms of astrology were invoked to map between measured weather & later weather.
The twelve days also get their name & tally from the Aryan lunar calendar.
“Father” was a rank held by the priests of Mithra, from whom we get the title “Father Christmas”. The title is forbidden (at Matthew 23:9) in the Bible.
Worship of the rising sun on Easter (and Xmas) didn’t get really started until Clement & Origen, and may have been kick-started as bowing towards Jerusalem in Africa or Europe.
Gah. I could go on for many pages...
Let’s just say that people acting like heathens at Christmas are simply following the basic script. (-: