In the Middle Ages
As we all know, the bathing habits of our ancestors were nearly non-existent. They would drown themselves in powders, oils, and perfumes, and their homes with windows and anything that smelled better than they did such as fresh herbs and flowers. To fight off disease and sickness, they wore pomanders, which were perfume balls or herbal sachets. Today, we realize these things obviously didn't work and proper hygiene is what works best. However, the way the pomander was used hasn't really gone away. As they evolved with the times, they were instead used with real apple and oranges studded with cloves and would keep moths out of wardrobes or just freshen the air in the home in a more natural way. It was said around the 17th century that witches would make them and wrap in the golden ribbon to protect themselves. Pretty much everything was something a witch did back then, so I would take it with a grain of salt. However, here in the book Privy purse expenses of the Princess Mary, daughter of King Henry the Eighth, afterwards Queen Mary (page is directly linked) it tells you how to make the ORIGINAL pomander, though it uses some ingredients that are frowned upon today. There are synthetic versions of musk and civet, but there is sure to be a better substitution.
Salt Dough & "Witch Balls"
Salt dough ornaments are probably the most obvious of these reclaimed non-pagan traditions. The people were poor and didn't have factories to make their ornaments, so obviously they found ways to create their own decorations with what they had around the home. ThoughtCo has a wonderful article on how to make these as well as witch spell balls. Now, the traditional witch ball is just a blown glass ball with one or two colors on them. They were used well before the 18th century to actually ward off witches, their spells, and other assortments of bad things. The witches and evil spirits would instead become mesmerized by the beauty of the balls, because, ya know, we're goldfish in reality. The spell balls seen today, even in my own shop, are just a fun craft that happen to smell amazing and hide a spell in plain sight!
Turn of the Century
Many Christians will tell you they started the tradition of the tree thanks to Saint Boniface. The story goes that he went to convert the Norsemen and upon his arrival they were worshiping an oak tree, the symbol of Odin. He came and cut the tree causing it to“burst asunder into four parts, each part having a trunk of equal length. At the sight of this extraordinary spectacle the heathens who had been cursing ceased to revile and began, on the contrary, to believe and bless the Lord.” (From The Life of Saint Boniface by Bishop Willibald) However, this is where the myth differs from the biography. The myth says that in it's place grew a fir and the saint hung the tree that formed in the shape of a triangle to symbolize the Holy Trinity. The book says that never happened and he just turned the wood into an oratory while the heathens converted.
According to the Polish Art Center, this was not the case. Before the 19th century when the common tradition of having a tree starting coming from the Germanic areas of Europe, they simply cut off the tip of the tree or hung a branch facing downwards.
It can be surmised though, that if they actually did hang an upside down tree, or any tree, that it due simply to spaces. In the old days the houses were very small and crowded. They lacked floor space and instead of having our flat ceilings, they had bare rafters. So it would make sense to preserve the room and hand instead the tree for celebration.
This is a VERY new solely Heathen take on the Christian Advent Calendar. I'm actually going to do an entire blog post just on this new tradition that's popping up worldwide.