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It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

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Now that December is here, Santa Claus and his many helpers are beginning to make appearances around the world. In anticipation of Christmas Day -- barely more than three weeks away -- people are decorating homes and town squares, gathering in churches and markets, and shopping for trees and gifts. Gathered below are recent images of this Christmas season, from London to Australia, and many places between. [40 photos]

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Santa Claus, portayed by Frank Knorre, poses in Berlin, Germany, on November 3, 2011. Knorre was taking part in a seasonal fundraiser for social programs in Germany. (Michael Gottschalk/AP Photo)
Santa Claus, portayed by Frank Knorre, poses in Berlin, Germany, on November 3, 2011. Knorre was taking part in a seasonal fundraiser for social programs in Germany. (Michael Gottschalk/AP Photo)
A woman takes picture in front of a Christmas tree during a lighting ceremony in downtown Sofia, Bulgaria, on December 1, 2011. (Reuters/Stoyan Nenov) #
Volunteer Santas and angels attend their annual meeting at the Komoedie am Kurfuerstedamm theater in Berlin, Germany, on November 26, 2011. The event was organized by Studentenwerk Berlin, a student organization at the city's technical university (Technische Universitaet Berlin), that sends out between 400 and 500 students and alumni dressed as Santas and angels every year to visit company parties in December and families on Christmas Eve. The students, who must complete a Santa workshop, participate as a way to make a little money to help fund their studies. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images) #
A bungee jumper dressed as Santa Claus leaps from a platform above Kuta beach, Denpasar, on Indonesia's resort island of Bali, on December 2, 2011. (Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP/Getty Images) #
Woodcarver Heinrich Zwink carves a figurine in the shape of a shepherd for a Christmas crèche at his workshop on December 1, 2011 in Oberammergau, Germany. Oberammergau woodcarving tradition, which is the most famous in Bavaria, has its roots in the 12th century, though Zwink and his colleagues from the St.Luke's guild, the Oberammergau woodcarvers association deplore the decline of the tradition both due to a lack of a new generation of woodcarvers as well as competition from wood figurine factories in northern Italy and Asia. In Oberammergau approximately 50 woodcarvers still churn out figurines of mostly religious motifs throughout the year. (Johannes Simon/Getty Images) #
A woman stands inside Toni Baur's shop for woodcarved items in Oberammergau, Germany, on December 1, 2011. (Johannes Simon/Getty Images) #
Birds take to the air as a helicopter flies over the Swiss Parliament building transporting the annual Christmas tree for the Federal square in Bern, on November 30, 2011. (Reuters/Pascal Lauener) #
Franziska Handke, 16, performs during the opening ceremony of the famous Christmas market "Nuernberger Christkindlesmarkt", on November 25, 2011 in Nuremberg, Germany. (Alexandra Beier/Getty Images) #
A man walks past a seven-meter tall Christmas tree, made out of over 2,000 glass baubles, in the main street of Valletta, Malta, on December 1, 2011. (Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi) #
The 2011 National Christmas Tree is lit by US President Barack Obama and the First Family during a ceremony on The Ellipse near the White House in Washington, DC, on December 1, 2011. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images) #
President Barack Obama laughs with daughters Malia (right) and Sasha while watching performers during the annual lighting of the National Christmas tree, on December 1, 2011, at The Ellipse in Washington, DC. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images) #
Leona Butler, 3, walks among this year's crop of mistletoe at the annual Tenbury Wells Mistletoe Auction, on November 29, 2011, in Tenbury Wells, England. Ancient druids believed mistletoe had magical properties because of the way it grows, never touching the ground and without taking nourishment from the earth. Tenbury Wells has been the traditional mistletoe capital for over 150 years. Druids blessed this year's crop before buyers put their bids in for the festive plant. The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe at Christmas comes from the belief that mistletoe aids fertility. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images) #
Christmas shoppers browse the offerings at the Bath Christmas Market on its opening night, on November 24, 2011 in Bath, England. Originating in Germany, Christmas markets have become increasingly popular in British cities too, as a way of boosting festive retail sales and visitor numbers. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images) #
Customers shop at Macy's department store in New York, on November 25, 2011. Stores looking to grab as big a piece as possible of what is expected to be a middling holiday shopping season pushed post-Thanksgiving openings into Thursday evening, getting an early start on "Black Friday," the traditional start to the U.S. holiday shopping season. (Reuters/Eric Thayer) #
Staff at the Amazon Swansea fulfillment center process orders as they prepare their busiest time of the year, on November 24, 2011, in Swansea, Wales. The 800,000 sq ft fulfillment center is one the largest of Amazon's six in the UK and the also the world. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images) #
A worker dressed as Santa Claus greets spectators during an aquarium show in Bangkok, Thailand, on December 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong) #
In a long-exposure photo, the interior of Salisbury Cathedral is illuminated by trails of candles carried by choristers during the annual "darkness to light" advent procession in Salisbury, England, on November 25, 2011. The service - which begins with the medieval cathedral in total darkness and silence before the Advent Candle is lit at the West End -is one of the most popular services of the liturgical year. The annual advent service, which takes place over three nights, is a mix of music and readings during which two great candlelit processions move around the different spaces in the 750-year-old building which, by the end, is illuminated by almost 1,300 candles and is a spectacular start to the Christmas season. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images) #
Bekah Mutchler lines up Maya Gonzalez, 2, Gracie Long, 3, and Libby Vaught, 4, against the wall as they wait for their scene during "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" dress rehearsal at Frankfort High School in Frankfort, Kentucky, on November 29, 2011. (AP Photo/The State Journal, Hannah Reel) #
Christmas lights are illuminated on Oxford Street in London, England, on November 27, 2011. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images) #
Roger Waible of Greensboro, Vermont, carries a freshly cut Christmas tree at Christmas Farms, on December 1, 2011 in Walden, Vermont. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot) #
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is lit in New York City, on November 30, 2011. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images) #
Santa Claus tells Josiah Romero, 3, that he's been a good boy this year after receiving a bicycle from Speedway Children's Charity during the Annual Tree Lighting and Speedway Children's Charity Ceremony at Texas Motor Speedway, on November 29, 2011 in Fort Worth, Texas. The charity gave away 100 bicycles and surpassed the $8 million mark in grants distributed since its inception in 1997. (Brandon Wade/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway) #
Fireworks explode around a Christmas tree during its lighting ceremony at Rodrigo de Freitas Lake in Rio de Janeiro, on November 26, 2011. (Reuters/Andre Durao) #
A picture taken on December 1, 2011, shows girls posing under a tree lit, part of Christmas decorations in central Sofia, Bulgaria. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images) #
Cars pass under hanging Christmas lights in a street of Madrid, on November 29, 2011. Streets of the capital are decked out in lights every year ahead of Christmas celebrations. (Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images) #
An illuminated Ferris wheel spins at the Christmas market behind the Golden Rider, a statue of Frederick Augustus, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, known as Augustus the Strong, in Dresden, Germany, on November 27, 2011. (Robert Michael/AFP/Getty Images) #
A mannequin dressed as a fisherman in a Santa Claus costume sits on a rocky outcrop in the Irish Sea, fifty miles north of Belfast near the village of Waterfoot, on November 28, 2011. (Reuters/Cathal McNaughton) #
Workmen fix Christmas lights on Carnaby Street on November 29, 2011 in London, England. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images) #
A Christmas tree is illuminated as the traditional Christmas market opens at the Old Town Square in Prague, on November 26, 2011. (Reuters/David W Cerny) #
A vendor serves hot wine at the traditional Christkindelsmaerik (Christ Child market) near Strasbourg Cathedral, on November 27, 2011. Held annually since 1570, Strasbourg's Christ Child Market, known as the oldest French Christmas market, started last Saturday. The sign above reads "Mulled wine". (Reuters/Vincent Kessler) #
Mothers decorate a Christmas tree at Hostel Domus Alipio in Mexico City, on November 30, 2011. Hostel Domus Alipio, run by Catholic priest Luis Figueroa and a group of volunteers, provides shelter, medication and therapy to orphans as well as women and children from low-income families affected by HIV and AIDS. (Reuters/Carlos Jasso) #
A giant decorated Christmas tree stands on the ground floor of Galeries Lafayette department store as people shop for gifts during the holiday season in Paris, on November 17, 2011. (Reuters/Charles Platiau) #
Alberta Cooke, 2, takes a tour of Santa's grotto at Selfridges department store in central London, on November 19, 2011. (Reuters/Paul Hackett) #
Santa Claus rides on his sleigh down Central Park West during the 85th Macy's Thanksgiving day parade in New York, on November 24, 2011. (Reuters/Gary Hershorn) #
Giant baubles hang in Covent Garden market, on November 27, 2011 in London, England. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images) #
A Christmas tree, made up of 276 teddy bears, is displayed as part of a promotional event for the upcoming Christmas at Grand Intercontinental Hotel in Seoul, South Korea, on December 1, 2011. Many South Korean companies take advantage of the Christmas to promote their business amid weak sales and economic slowdown. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) #
Santa waves from the roof of the Queen Victoria Building, on November 28, 2011, in Sydney, Australia. Santa landed at the Sydney building and will set up inside the shopping center to greet Children until Christmas Eve. (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images) #
A house is decorated with Christmas lights in a street in the village of Calle, near the German town of Bremen, on December 1, 2011. The sign reads "Merry Christmas."(Reuters/Morris Mac Matzen) #
Nelson's Column is silhouetted against the night sky behind the Christmas tree during the lighting ceremony in Trafalgar Square in London, on December 1, 2011. The 46-year-old Norwegian Spruce tree was carefully selected by The Mayor of Oslo and The Lord Mayor of Westminster. The annual gift from the city of Oslo is a token of gratitude for the assistance given to Norway from 1940 to 1945. (Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images) #
Theodore Kemna, 7, right, and his sister, Penelope, 4, search for a Christmas tree at Sunset Christmas Tree Farm in Mansfield, Illinois, on November 25, 2011. (AP Photo, The News-Gazette, Heather Coit) #

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