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Pictures Of The Day 29 December: Dragons, Giraffes And Snow Churches

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What lies ahead in 2012? Are we heading towards economic recovery, Olympic hysteria or world peace? According to Japan, it's all about Dragons - shrine maidens prepare to destroy evil spirits with symbolic arrows at Sosha Shrine in Himeji.

Another festival focused around lumbering beasts, albeit the gentler kind, is the three-day elephant festival in Chitwan, some 150kms southwest of Kathmandu, where beauty pageants are held to find the prettiest elephant.

From big ears to long necks - baby giraffe Jelani enjoys the sunshine after being released from quarantine in Melbourne.

If you still want to savour that cosy Christmassy feeling, then head to the luminescent Snow Church in Mitterfirmiansreut, Germany.

North Korea mourns the loss of their former leader Kim Jong-il with an enormous memorial service attended by thousands and tragedy strikes Yangon as rescue worker battle to save lives following an unexplained explosion - all in the pictures of the day below: