Christmas comes but once a year, but a small Italian town has become world famous for unexpected reasons this festive season after accidentally erecting some hilarious tree lights.

A photo of Christmas lights on palm trees in Civitanova Marche has gone viral after being posted by American model Amanda Cerny and then on the You Had One Job Twitter account, which said: "Why you don't put Christmas lights on palm trees."

The lights, covering the entire palm tree stem including the wider section at the top, look phallic in nature to many people, with the scene made even more graphic with the lights spaced out over the palm leaves.

The Twitter post prompted people to guess which cities or US states known for their palm trees might have made the x-rated error, with Florida, Arizona and Palm Springs all guessed at.

Mark Aselstine said: "Having grown up in San Diego I've got to add: sometimes you work with what you've got."

However, the lights actually belong to Civitanova Marche in the east coast Italian region Marche, and the locals are proud of their internet fame. One person posted on the Twitter thread saying: "We are proud of our Italian trash."

Local newspaper Cronache Maceratesi reported that officials seemed to be taking the attention good-naturedly, with traders hoping for economic benefits from people visiting to see the lights.

The palm tree lights quickly became the subject of some x-rated teasing on Twitter. "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas," said one user. "I don't think that's what's meant by a happy ending to the year," said another.

This is not the first gaffe of this type this year. In November, at the Keynsham Winter Festival near Bristol back in the UK, the temporary fun fair's helter skelter lit up in the familiar shape of the male member – right in front of the town hall.

One local man enjoyed the scene, saying: "Absolutely hilarious! Always good to celebrate the town council's sparkly erections at the annual Winter Festival – it's worth the council tax alone!"

Phallic Christmas lights
These unusual Christmas lights turned out to be the star of the show at Keynsham Winter Festival. @flezmungus