LONDON (AP) — Last week the festive seasons of Christmas and Hanukkah kicked off around Europe with traditional street markets and ceremonies.
In Russia, President Vladimir Putin used his annual holiday news conference to promise Russians that he would never let the West chain or defang his proud nation.
Speaking for more than three hours, Putin vowed to fix Russia's economic woes within two years by diversifying the economy and boosting the plummeting ruble.
In Spain, thousands of people gathered in several cities to protest a new law that would set hefty fines for offenses such as burning the national flag and holding demonstrations outside parliament buildings or strategic installations.
In financially struggling Greece, this year's Christmas and New Year celebrations are being overshadowed by a threatened political crisis. If Greek lawmakers fail to elect a new president by Dec. 29, early national elections will have to be called and could sweep the main anti-bailout opposition party to power.
Elsewhere on the continent the mood was more cheerful.
Entertainers donned elf and Santa Claus costumes, and in Berlin, a giant Hanukkah Menorah was lit in front of a Christmas tree at the Brandenburg Gate at the launch of the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights.
In the Czech Republic, four newly born cheetah cubs prepared to celebrate their first Christmas at Prague's zoo. They were born on Nov. 21. Scientists say every cheetah cub is critical to saving the species, which is threatened with extinction in the wild.