A man dressed as Santa Claus crosses a road after completing the annual 5KM Santa Dash in Liverpool, northern England Dec. 4, 2016. Reuters

This holiday season, families the world round will gather around a pine tree adorned with small lights and ornaments before a red-robed man to celebrate what they say was the birth of their prophet. The keen observer may wonder, however, what exactly do any of those Christmas traditions actually have to do with Jesus and Christianity?

As it turns out, plenty of modern Christmas traditions actually have roots in pagan traditions, a group of people who coexisted with early Christians in Europe as Christianity was spread throughout the continent. Many of the traditions were slowly adopted by Christians over time after the idea of midwinter festivals began to look more attractive to Christian churches.

There are some interesting facts about paganism and the origins of Christmas traditions.

What Does 'Pagan' Mean? The term is a used to refer to a diverse group of religious people who were lumped together by Christian missionaries in the earliest centuries A.D. For Christians, it was an umbrella term that referred loosely to the people living in less urban and rural parts of Europe while Christians attempted to spread their religion.

The term "pagan" can be interpreted in a variety of ways, including simply referring to a person who holds a religious belief outside of the major religions.

What’s With The Tree And Santa Claus? Some believe that the Christmas tree comes from the pagan practice of keeping evergreen springs and trees during the cold and dark winter months because they are resilient and able to add a bit of green to an otherwise dreary season (some believe, however, that Martin Luther was inspired to put candles on a tree after seeing light shine through the needles). Pagans are also generally seen as a group of people who venerate nature. The first Christmas trees came into existence in 17th-century Germany.

Santa Claus, on the other hand, is a descendant of England’s Father Christmas. Santa, Father Christmas and other versions of the man found throughout Europe are said to have been inspired by pagan concepts of spirits that traveled around in the sky in winter.

How Long Did It Take Christians To Adopt These Ideas? It took a while since the Bible never really mentioned the idea of celebrating Jesus’ birthday and the first recorded Christmas was celebrated in 336 A.D. But as time wore on some people began thinking that the Bible referred to a spiritual entity instead of an actual man who once lived and roamed the land, according to Live Science. So, when that idea seemed like it was spreading, the Church figured that pinning down a date to celebrate a birthday was a good way to reinforce the notion that Jesus was a living man.

Midwinter festivals at this time were already a common practice in the pagan world at the time. The dead of winter is thought to have been chosen for these festivals for a couple reasons: There are no crops to tend to in the middle of winter and people may need their spirits raised during colder months.