I did a lot of research and this is what I have found. Some of it I knew some of it surprised me. First we will talk about Christmas day then Santa Claus and then some of the traditions.
As far as I have been able to determine Ancient Egypt was the first people to celebrate in December. they celebrated the Winter Solstice. They placed green Date Palms in front of their houses to celebrate life over death. The Winter Solstice was Celebrated all over Europe and Africa Then the Romans started celebrating Winter Solstice also the celebrated the birth of Saturn their sun god. Saturn celebrations started December 17th and ended December 25th the day of Saturn's birth.
Then in 349 AD Pope Julius wanting the Christians to have something to celebrate decided Christ Jesus was born on December 25 and all good Christians should celebrate his birth on that day (Scholars think Jesus was actually born in the Springtime about 4 to 6 BC). Christmas or Christ's birth caught on slowly and slowly spread through Europe and Africa.
Christmas trees were first used to signify the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost. In some countries it was the custom to hang trees upside down. No one has every ever figured out why they did this. In the 16th century Martin Luther was the first To decorated a Christmas tree. He put candles on a Christmas tree. He did it to teach his daughters about the solar system. Later they started putting all sorts of other things on the Christmas trees. During the great depression the nurseries could not sell their trees for landscaping during winter so the started cutting them down and selling them for Christmas trees. Allowing more and more people to bring them into their houses.
The Christmas star is one of the most common Christmas symbols. It represents the star of David that shown over Jerusalem that Wonderful night. It brought the 3 wise men to the Baby Jesus. (Jesus was probably 2 years old when the wise Men saw him).
Candy canes represent The Good Shepherd. Hold them one way it is a J for Jesus. Turn it around it is a Shepherds crook or cane. It was made out of hard white peppermint candy to symbolize the strength and purity of Jesus. 3 red stripes were also added to remember the whipping he took for us and the blood that was spilled for us.
Glass bulbs of different colors were first used in Europe Then spread to the United States with the first Settlers along with many of the other customs they had back home.
The first tinsel that was put on trees was actually made out of silver. People found it tarnished fast so they started making tinsel out of tin.
Now let us talk about Santa Claus for a few minutes. Santa Claus is one of the most recognizable symbols of Christmas. There are people who want to get rid of Santa Claus. They say he is the work of the Devil. I say Hogwash! Santa represents the spirit of Giving, a very real Christian idea. Others say it is lying to kids. Again I say Hogwash! It is giving the kids something to believe in at Christmas time and teaching them about giving.
Santa Claus got his start as a real person in the 4th century. A man named Nicholas used to give money and gifts to the needy. He would do this at night to hide his identity also to protect the dignity of the poor he was helping. He was found out and eventually the Catholic church made him a saint (Now I don't believe in sainthood. To me it is worshiping someone other the Jesus and that is breaking the 10 commandments).
Through the years as his fame spread to other countries St. Nicholas got his name changed first to Sinterklaas then Father Christmas then Kris Kringle then finally to Santa Claus. The Santa Claus we know today got popularized with a poem written in the Early 19th century called A Night Before Christmas by Clement Clark Moore.
Some of the other Christmas traditions.
Mistletoe was first thought to give fertility if 2 people kissed under it. It also used to be a sign of an engagement..
Bells represented joy and sorrow
Poinsettias represent the star of Bethlehem The red represents the blood of Christ.
Candles represent the forms of life, Idolatry, Faith and Spiritualism Lights represent heaven