At the end of the year, many parts of the world are brightened by glittering displays. Holidays and festivals bring people out at night for a visual treat and interiors are bathed in festive lights. Life is made more colorful for a variety of celebrations.
Protests continued today in Kiev after President Viktor Yanukovych decided not to sign a pact with the European Union. Yanukovych's meeting with opposition leaders today yielded no real progress on the issues that have brought massive demonstrations to the country for the last three weeks.
A Ukrainian protester waves a European flag during a pro-European protest rally on Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, on Dec. 8. Tens of thousands of Ukrainian anti-government protesters demanded that President Viktor Yanukovych step down for his decision to back away from an association agreement with the European Union, a decision that has sparked a political crisis. Braving freezing temperatures, the demonstrators held pro-EU placards and sang the national hymn in Kiev's Independence Square.
South African leader and anit-aparthied hero Nelson Mandela died December 5 at the age of 95. Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years for fighting against apartheid and upon his release in 1990, continued to strive for peace and reconciliation as president of ANC and South African president in 1994. The country and the world mourns his death and celebrates his life.
Flowers left by mourners surround a portrait of Nelson Mandela in the Sandton district of Johannesburg on Dec. 6. Mandela, the revered icon of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and one of the towering political figures of the 20th century, died on Dec. 5 aged 95. Mandela, who was elected South Africa's first black president after spending nearly three decades in prison, had been receiving treatment for a lung infection at his Johannesburg home since September, after three months in hospital in a critical state.
The Farne Islands are off the coast of northeast England and are home to a huge seabird colony. The islands are owned and protected by the British conservation charity, the National Trust, which says the islands host some 23 species of seabird, as well as a substantial colony of grey seals, who come to have their pups there in the autumn. Every five years the National Trust carries out a census of the islands' population of puffins, and this year's survey showed there were almost 40,000 nesting pairs on the islands - an 8 percent rise from 2008
The winners have been named in the 2013 National Geographic Photography contest. As a leader in capturing our world through brilliant imagery, National Geographic sets the standard for photographic excellence. Professional photographers and amateur photo enthusiasts from over 150 countries submitted more than 7000 entries. Photographs were entered in three categories: people, places and nature. The competition was judged on creativity and photographic quality by a panel of experts comprising of National Geographic magazine Senior Photo Editor Susan Welchman; and documentary photographers Stephanie Sinclair and Ed Kashi. View the winning images and honorable mentions here. Grand Prize Winner, Paul Souders, will receive $10,000 and a trip to National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., to participate in the annual National Geographic Photography Seminar in January 2014. -- National Geographic -- [Editors Note: The Big Picture will not publish during the week beginning December 23. We will return posting December 30.
Grand Prize and Nature Winner: The Ice Bear- A polar bear peers up from beneath the melting sea ice on Hudson Bay as the setting midnight sun glows red from the smoke of distant fires during a record-breaking spell of hot weather. The Manitoba population of polar bears, the southernmost in the world, is particularly threatened by a warming climate and reduced sea ice
A snowstorm in the Middle East, 95 degree temperatures in Buenos Aires, flooding in Gaza, ice storms in Canada. Its a typical December around the world. Or is it?
Eve Grayson, a Reindeer herder of the Cairgorm Reindeer Herd, feeds the deer on December 23, 2013 in Aviemore, Scotland. Reindeer were introduced to Scotland in 1952 by Swedish Sami Reindeer herder, Mikel Utsi. Starting with just a few reindeer, the herd has now grown in numbers over the years and is currently at about 130 by controlling the breeding.