'It's Chriiistmaaas!', and with the arrival of the festive season comes a whole host of treasured Christmas traditions. Perhaps you never neglect to leave a mince pie out for Santa? Or would you rather die than miss out on Christmas dinner with all the trimmings?

As much as we love our Christmas comforts, it's safe to say that they're a little, well... safe. Across Europe, however, Christmas customs enter much quirkier territory. Here are five of our favourites.

5. The Christmas pickle - Germany


Rather than a simple garnish for a tasty burger or a toasted sandwich, in Germany, pickles are something of a Christmas tradition. Well, pickle-shaped baubles are, anyway. They are hung deep in the fronds of Christmas trees, so children can have hours of fun tracking them down. The search isn't a fruitless one, either, there is a special prize for whoever finds the pickle... an extra present!

There is just one cause for dispute - the origin of the custom. While the majority of German people dismiss the idea, in America, pickles regularly pepper festive trees. The most likely explanation is that the tradition originated in Germany many moons ago, before falling out of fashion.

4. Hiding brooms - Norway


Ah, Christmas Eve - hot food, cheeky drinks and general merriment. Not so for the Norwegians. Christmas Eve in Norway is a very superstitious event indeed, and is believed to herald the arrival of witches who are intent on stealing the best brooms they can find. There is just one way to counter any joyriding... hide every broom in the house!

Although quirky and very different to our own Christmas customs, broom-hiding has been passed down from an ancient belief in evil and ill-fortune.

3. Mari Lwyd - Wales


It is during the misty night of All Hallow's Eve, that the ghostly spirit of a huge white horse wanders the streets of Welsh towns...

Actually, this eerie event takes place around Christmas time, although you'd be forgiven for thinking otherwise! The horse in question is known as Mari Lwyd, an effigy created by attaching a horse skull to the end of a pole, which is carried by a person covered with a sheet. Followed by a party of singers, Mari Lwyd knocks at the doors of houses and pubs before its chaperones sing an introductory verse, wait for an inflammatory song in response, then trade rhyming insults with the occupant. Once a party concedes, they all retire inside.

2. Krampus - Austria


Kids, you know what happens if you're naughty - all you'll get for Christmas is a lump of coal. Or is it?

In Austria, Christmas customs dictate that naughty children don't get anything from Santa at all. What they do get is a visit from the terrifying horned devil, Krampus! The bad cop to Santa's good cop, Krampus spends his time hoisting naughty children into a basket he carries on his back, before carting them straight off to the bowels of hell. Well, it's one way to encourage good behaviour!

1. Caga Tió - Catalonia


Meet Caga Tió, Catalonia's infamous 'pooping log'. Complete with a smiling face and a Santa hat, the log is hollowed out by parents who then cover its rear end with a blanket, ready for children to feed it fruit, nuts and chocolate from December 8th. The hope is that Caga Tió will leave them a little present (so to speak) on Christmas Day, once they have hit it with a stick.

Of course, the blanket comes in very useful for hiding Caga Tió's by-products. These used to be things like salt herring and dried figs, but are now mostly the kids' Christmas presents - who needs a tree?

Have you been inspired to try out some of these quirky Christmas customs yourself? Perhaps you've been left with a craving to visit one the countries they originate from? If it's the latter, then you've come to the right place! Take a look at our holidays in Germany, Norway, Austria and beyond to start your cultural adventure.

Image credits:Robin Zebrowski / Flickr.comJon Feinstein / Flickr.comA Raven Above Press / Flickr.comWolfgang / Flickr.comJosep Ma. Rosell / Flickr.com