In Norse lands we have several origins from our Yule celebrations. One is the public Mid Winter Blood Sacrifice, where animals (and sometimes humans) were hung up in a tree, celebrated in Uppsala and Frösön (Frey´s island). The farm celebrations took firs as yule trees and put them on each side of the door or on the roof and decorated the top as Yule Poles (compare the Midsummer May Pole of Birch).
From Saxon traditions came the yule log, which was burnt to give light in the darkness from the 15th century. Germanic protestants started bringing the tree inside in the 16th century, and by the 18th rich families decorated their trees with candles.
Victoria and Albert´s decorated christmas tree became a famous role model for bourgeouis society in the 19th century
And from there the modern tradition spread.
Polska dances were performed around the tree since the 1600s, the most famous ones being ”The Fox walks over the ice” and later ”Hej tomtegubbar” (Hey house elves drink and be merry). Swedes dance traditions around christmas and midsummer have been collected and edited since the 1800s and are still strong today, but were described already by Rudbeck and Linnaeus.
The Yulefather was Odin, and Freya and Frey as king of the elves were in focus for Yule celebrations and the joy and peace of Yule (juleförjd and julefrid). Santa in Sweden is called ”tomte”, which is a house elf protecting the farm and animals, if you are nice to him, and put out porridge on the door step for christmas.
With the Julian calendar in 1715, Lucia was moved back to 12 days before christmas. This is the celebration of the darkest night, with jests and songs in your nightgowns and candles in your hair, or in your hand. A man dressed as a woman and brought bread and candy to the masters of the house. ”Lusse” has a Norse origin, related to the trixter Loki and Lucifer as the bringer of light, because we did not celebrate saints in protestant Sweden. But Lucia is the biggest celebration of all today for us. While christmas evolved as a more christian celebration, Lucia kept more of the pagan roots of the games and celebrations from farm life. And the candles were later put in the christmas tree.