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"Christmas" actually started in the Roman Empire. It was called "Saturnalia". It was the celebration of the Winter Solstice. That time when day and night are of equal lengths because the earth is in the center of it's orbit around the sun. After the solstice, the nights start getting shorter, and the days start getting longer. The northern hemisphere starts to heat back up again because the tilt of the earth's axis is changing to be more towards the sun.|
Christmas came about after the advent of the Christian Church. They incorporated the celebration of the birth of Christ into Saturnalia because it was easier to convert non-Christians this way. Christmas trees, as one poster already mentioned come from the Germanic tradition of bringing greenery indoors. Santa Claus comes from the patron Saint of Children, Saint Nicholas, who, some will say, was not a very nice man at all.
There is no actual date for the birth of Christ. However, if you look at the Biblical references, there are clues. Modern theologians place his birth during spring, when shepherds would be tending their flocks at night, because that was the birthing season for sheep, the number one livestock for the Middle East at that time.
Oh, and by-the-way, Jingle Bells is not a Christmas song. It was a Thanksgiving song, written by James Lord Piermont, to be a drinking song about one-horse sleigh races held every year in Medford, Massachusetts.