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Lightbulb babies and fairytale castles: Your Christmas traditions

By Sarah Brown and Eoghan Macguire, CNN
updated 5:36 AM EST, Mon December 24, 2012
<a href=' http://ireport.cnn.com/people/ALin77'>Angeline Hwang</a> took this picture of model cottages at a Christmas market in the German town of Hanau, the birthplace of the Brothers Grimm. German Christmas markets can have many themes, she said, and pop-up throughout the country during the festive months. Angeline Hwang took this picture of model cottages at a Christmas market in the German town of Hanau, the birthplace of the Brothers Grimm. German Christmas markets can have many themes, she said, and pop-up throughout the country during the festive months.
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Christmas cottages
Baby lights
Christmas makeover
A holy Christmas
Seoulful celebrations
Czech Christmas
Lobster-cage tree
Christmas in Shanghai
Filipino ingenuity
A carol in Tonga
Truck parade
Festive parol
Santa convention
A festive Indian parade
A Colombian snowman
A Hollywood tale
Away from home
Christmas castle
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • CNN asked people to send images of Christmas celebrations where they live
  • iReporters sent in the best shots from as far afield as Colombia, the Philippines and China
  • Some of the most intriguing featured light displays, markets, parades and religious services

(CNN) -- Christmas is synonymous with colorful decorations, festive markets and extravagant quantities of food.

But while most yuletide celebrations share these general characteristics, there are of course a host of distinctive traditions and regional variations depending on where you are in the world.

That's why CNN asked you to show us exactly how Christmas is celebrated where you live. From the Philippines to Germany to Colombia and even the Pacific island of Tonga, we received over 400 wonderfully vivid submissions.

Christmas would obviously not be Christmas without Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, or Pere Noel. Whatever the name, his popularity among children (and many adults) is perennial.

See also: Where is the world's most Christmassy destination

The cold water of Barcelona's Port Vell doesn't deter this swimmer dressed up as St. Nick from joining in the Copa Nadal swimming race, a traditional holiday event in the Spanish seaport, on Tuesday, December 25. The cold water of Barcelona's Port Vell doesn't deter this swimmer dressed up as St. Nick from joining in the Copa Nadal swimming race, a traditional holiday event in the Spanish seaport, on Tuesday, December 25.
Santa sightings around the world
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Photos: Santa sightings around the world Photos: Santa sightings around the world
If meeting Santa is on your Christmas to-do-list then a trip to Rovaniemi in Finland is a must. The village in Lapland, located just north of the Arctic Circle, has become known as the Christmas HQ -- where kids and adults can make gingerbread cookies with Mrs. Claus or enroll in Elf School. If meeting Santa is on your Christmas to-do-list then a trip to Rovaniemi in Finland is a must. The village in Lapland, located just north of the Arctic Circle, has become known as the Christmas HQ -- where kids and adults can make gingerbread cookies with Mrs. Claus or enroll in Elf School.
Santa HQ
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A reflection of Christmas in Florida. A reflection of Christmas in Florida.
Naples, Florida
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Christmas lights around the world Christmas lights around the world
What 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' costs

Greg Reese from Cincinnati, Ohio, sent in these images of 'Santa-Con' in his home city -- an annual event where people come dressed up as Santa Claus and tread the streets doling out candy.

"It's essentially a gathering of like-minded individuals who wish to both get into the Christmas spirit, as well as spread Christmas cheer to their fellow man," said Reese.

Thousands of miles away, the Philippines hosts some of the most lavish Christmas celebrations in the world -- starting in September and ending in January. They also have some of the most colorful and fascinating traditions around the holiday.

Nathaniel Molines from San Pedro in Laguna province, the Philippines, sent in these beautiful images of parols -- lanterns made traditionally from bamboo and paper used to light the way to church for worshipers living in darkened rural areas.

"This is a simple decoration that tells us that Christmas is in every corner, love is in the air," he said. "I took the picture because it reminds me the value of celebrating Christmas here in the Philippines."

Lights of a similar design were spotted thousands of miles away in Shanghai, China, by Dutch expat Irene Reijs, who captured a beautiful image of a delivery man doggedly trundling along on his bike with his wares crammed into a delivery box.

"This photo for me represents Shanghai. Everything you can imagine is being delivered by these men and women on their bikes," she said.

"I was walking down the street with my camera and saw a golden shimmer at the end of the street. Then I saw this man and his bike... It made my day."

See also: The world's longest Christmas celebrations

Christmas in warmer locals can bring its challenges when it comes to at least one major decorative theme -- snow.

In Barranquilla, Colombia, Canadian expat Sara Tatham captured images of some creative craftwork using white felt to ensure that at least the look of decorations at the Colegio Britanico Internacional (British International School) where she works was festive, even if the temperature was not.

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"I love living in the tropics, but at this time of year I really miss seeing the lights and snow, and seeing the hustle and bustle as people buy their gifts."

Others break with convention entirely in their Christmas decorations, such as in Cape Cod in the eastern U.S. state of Massachusetts, where photographer Marie Sager spotted a tree built with lobster cages, decorated with plastic seashells and topped with other nautical items.

"This was the most unusual tree I had ever seen," she said. "It's perfect for a town by the sea."

See also: Europe's best Christmas markets

Christmas markets are held across the globe and are a reliable source of presents, seasonal cheer and regional delicacies.

Mary Legg in Prague, the Czech Republic, captured some beautiful images of the city's famous Christmas market and parade, held in the city's Old Town Square.

"Tourists flock in by the droves to buy small handmade presents and enjoy the winter holidays," she says.

"All kinds of scrumptious fast foods are to be had from freshly roasted meat over open spits to mulled wine and the ever great Czech beer."

See also: Test your Christmas knowledge with our quirky festive quiz

Elsewhere in Europe, Angeline Hwang was captivated by the beautiful Christmas market in the German town of Hanau, the birthplace of famous fairy tale authors, the Brothers Grimm.

"I went to walk around the Christmas Market and as I looked up, there were the statues of the Grimm Brothers, standing majestically over the old city square!" she said.

"I was standing exactly where my fairy-tales began."

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