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Photo: Trend Hunter

If you are considering heading abroad for the holidays this year you may want to make sure you do some serious research into the country’s customs to avoid being completely clueless on arrival.

Here are 15 of the weirdest Christmas customs from around the world:

1. Japan: All I want for Christmas is… KFC

Forget the Christmas turkey. For many Japanese, traditional Christmas dinner is Kentucky Fried Chicken. Due to a combination of tiny Japanese ovens and a clever marketing campaign convincing locals that fried chicken is a traditional American Yuletide feast, reservations have to be made to eat at a KFC on Christmas Day.

During the run-up to Christmas, Colonel Sanders statues outside KFC’s Japanese outlets wear Santa gear. The chicken is served in special holiday packaging. Demand is such that online service has been created: order your Xmas Family Bucket in advance and have it delivered.

2. Norway: Hide your broom

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Photo: Icon Wall Stickers

Norwegians believe that Christmas Eve coincides with the arrival of evil spirits and witches. It is only logical then, that Norwegian householders hide all their brooms before they go to sleep.

After all, nothing spoils Christmas quicker than finding your broom in broken pieces at the foot of a tree, trashed by some joy-riding witch.

3. Caracas: Get your skates on

In the week leading up to Christmas, Venezuelans attend a daily church service called Misa de Aguinaldo (Early Morning Mass). In the capital, Caracas, it is customary to travel to the church service on roller skates.

Indeed, so widespread is the practice, many roads in the capital are closed until 8am to provide Christmas worshippers with a safe passage.

4. Austria: Facing your Christmas demons

In Austria, St Nicholas has an evil counterpart called Krampus. He is the bad cop to St Nick’s good cop, a demon-like creature with one task: to punish bad children before Christmas.

Men dressed in devil costumes roam the streets, carrying chains and a basket for abducting especially bad children and hauling them to hell.

It's certainly one way to keep the kids off the streets.

5. Catalonia: Pooping their way through Christmas

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Photo: Smithsonian Magazine

Welcome to the bizarre Catalan tradition of caga tió or 'defecating log'.

Locals in Catalonia create a character out of a log, drawing a face on it and giving it a hat. Then they spend a fortnight 'feeding' it fruit, nuts and sweets.

On Christmas Eve, the entire family beats the log with sticks and sings a traditional song that translates to 'if you don't crap well, I'll beat you with a stick' until the log excretes all its treats. It's hard to comprehend why this tradition hasn't caught on elsewhere.

They also decorate their nativity scenes with small, pooping, ceramic caganers (figurines). Usually, well-known characters, often drawn from that year's news, the figurines always have their pants around their ankles.

6. Greenland: A Christmas dinner you'll never forget

Next time you find yourself complaining about granny's festive Brussel sprouts, spare a thought for the poor tykes in Greenland.

Each Christmas, they have to tuck into mattak – raw whale skin with a little blubber – and kiviak, which is made by wrapping an auk (a small arctic bird) in seal skin, burying it for several months and eating its decomposed flesh.

7. Guatemala: How clean is your house?

In Guatemala, cleanliness really is next to Godliness. Locals believe that the devil and other evil spirits live in the dark, dirty corners of your home.

Therefore, they spend the week before Christmas sweeping up, collecting rubbish and then piling everything in a huge heap outside. Finally, an effigy of the devil is placed on top and the whole thing is set on fire.

It's called La Quema del Diablo, the 'Burning of the Devil'. The idea for Guatemalans is to burn all the bad from the previous year and start a new year from out of the ashes.

8. Ukraine: Deck the halls with… spider’s webs?

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Photo: Wikipedia

In addition to the standard tinsel, fairy lights and baubles, Ukrainians like to throw an artificial spider and web on the tree as well.

The tradition has its origins in an old tale of a poor woman who couldn't afford to decorate her tree and woke on Christmas morning to discover a spider had covered it in a glorious, sparkling web.

It’s for good luck. It's not about poor housekeeping.

9. Czech Republic: A pair of matchmakers

On Christmas Eve, unmarried Czech women stand with their back to the door and toss one of their shoes over their shoulders.

If it lands with the toe facing the door, it means that they’ll be married within the year. If it lands with the heel facing the door, they’re in for another year of watching Bridget Jones movies. Perhaps it's better than marrying a heel, though.

10. Italy: Where Santa’s little helper is an old witch

Unable to conclusively prove the existence of Santa, the Vatican decided to throw its weight behind something they'd had countless dealings with an old witch called La Befana who delivers presents to kids in Italy.

The story goes that the three wise men invited the witch to accompany them to see the baby, Jesus. She said she was too busy and the legend was born.

11. Portugal: I feed dead people

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Photo: Stacker

During consoda, the traditional Christmas feast in Portugal, families sometimes set extra places at the dining table for deceased relatives.

It's thought that the practice will ensure good fortunes for the household. In some areas crumbs are left on the hearth as well. And you thought feeding all your living relatives was hard enough.

12. Germany: Fill your boots

On the evening of 5 December, German children leave a boot or a shoe outside their bedroom door.

In the morning, if they've been good, they will wake to find the shoes filled with sweets. If they haven’t, they will find only a branch. Obviously, it is best to leave out the newest pair of shoes you own – preferably, fresh out of the box.

13. Spain: New Year, new (red) knickers

Here's one for the New Year. In Spain, it is customary to wear red underwear on New Year's Eve.

The small town of La Font de la Figuera has taken the tradition one step further: a New Year’s Eve runs with the runners wearing just red underwear. Coincidentally, the town has the highest incidence of pneumonia in the country.

14. Germany: Pickle in the tree

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Photo: The Cross Border Blog

The Christmas tree tradition embraced around the world today is believed to have started in Germany back in the 16th Century, so it comes as no surprise that our Teutonic cousins still have some funny customs relating to the festive trees. One of these is to hide a pickle somewhere within the branches of the tree, and give a gift to whichever child in the household finds it.

Some claim that the tradition may not be German after-all. One legend says that the Christmas pickle originated in Spain when two young boys were held as prisoners inside a pickle barrel. Saint Nicholas rescued the boys and brought them back to life. Either way, a pickle on the Christmas tree is a tradition we can totally get behind.

15. Ukraine: A cobweb Christmas

Ukraine's strangest festive tradition is not one for arachnophobes! Where we would have baubles, tinsel and stars, Ukrainians use decorations that mimic the natural formation of spiders' webs shimmering with dew.

The tradition goes back to a folktale about a poor widow who could not afford to decorate a tree for her children. Legend has it that spiders in the house took pity on the family's plight, and spun beautiful webs all over the tree, which the children awoke to find on Christmas morning. Spiders' webs are also considered to be lucky in Ukrainian culture.

One of the weirdest festive traditions we've heard of comes from Iceland, where a giant cat is said to roam the snowy countryside at Christmas time. Traditionally farmers would use the Yule Cat as an incentive for their workers - those who worked hard would receive a new set of clothes, but those who didn't would be devoured by the gigantic cat-like beast.

Today it is customary for everyone in Iceland to get new clothing for Christmas to avoid an unsavory demise.

If you'd like to hunt down this elusive feline at your own pace, you can hire a car for just £17.38 per day.

For more weirdest things around the world, please check out our KnowInsider!

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