'Tis the season: Christmas around the world

From porcelain Nativity scenes to inflatable Santa Clause heads, a look at the world celebrating on December 25.

Christmas in the US 311 R (photo credit: REUTERS/Mike Segar )
Christmas in the US 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mike Segar )
The Christmas season is celebrated in different ways around the world; common elements include the lighting of Christmas trees, midnight Mass, the hanging of wreaths, and the creation of Nativity scenes depicting the birth of Jesus Christ. Some cultures include Santa Claus or other variations to appease children while others use the day as a more solemn time to reflect.

On December 25 at the Vatican, Pope Benedict called for an end to the violence in Syria and the resumption of Middle East peace talks in his "Urbi et Orbi" address to the city and the world. In Berlin, ice swimmers celebrated by jumping in the frigid waters of the Orankesee in red and white garb. Needy children in La Paz received toys and displayed smiles. Christian Gazan's prayed together while people in Bethlehem, just 50 miles away, celebrated in the Church of the Nativity, the structure built over the cave that tradition marks as the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth.