Now to December 24: Ambling through a Christmas market while sipping a mug of piping hot Glühwein is one of the great joys of the season. Typically taking over the main square in front of the cathedral, there are few things more festive than these beautiful outdoor markets, replete with handmade ornaments, local crafts and indulgent holiday treats. Nürnberg’s legendary Christkindlesmarkt is the largest (and most crowded), but the markets in Dresden, Munich, Berlin and numerous other German cities are just as delightful. You can also visit beautiful markets in France’s Alsace region, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Tallinn, Krakow, Copenhagen, Stockholm and even Chicago. A wonderland, each and every one.
December 3-11: Marrakech transforms the Djemaa el Fna (the main square) into an open-air movie theater for the 10th annual Marrakech International Film Festival. In addition to screenings, festival-goers can attend master classes with notable foreign directors and a seminar with Francis Ford Coppola.
December 3-18 (weekends only): Watch polar bears tear open Christmas presents at the Central Park Wildlife Center in New York City. As part of Winterfest, snow monkeys, penguins and red pandas, in addition to their fiercer friends, receive pretty packages filled with “fish-cicles” and other holiday treats.
December 4-12: Milan celebrates all things artisanal at L’Artigiano in Fiera, a giant free trade fair attended by craftspeople from all over the world. Products for sale include handmade crafts, jewelry, furniture, food, wine, clothing and accessories.
December 11: Marina del Rey, California, hosts its annual Holiday Boat Parade starting at 6 p.m. Fireworks at 5:55 p.m. sharp kick off the event.
December 12: Head farther south down the California coast to Santa Barbara, which holds its own boat parade and fireworks display, the Parade of Lights, starting at 3 p.m.
December 8-18: All of Bali is decorated with penjor (long, decorative bamboo poles) for the Galungan Festival. In addition to feasting on special recipes, the Balinese mark the occasion with dramatic Barong dances, in which the performers wear giant leonine puppet heads.
December 10-11: Oenophiles descend on Paris’ Carrousel du Louvre for Le Grand Tasting, where it’s possible to sample wines from more than 100 French châteaux. After enjoying some tastings, have a wander among the thousands of Christmas trees decorating Paris’ boulevards and squares.
December 29-31: Ascend India’s Mount Abu (three hours west of Udaipur) for the annual Winter Festival, punctuated by processions, folk dances, rowing competitions and fireworks.
December 31: People the world over celebrate New Year’s Eve in countless different ways, from mind-blowing fireworks displays over Sydney Harbour to grandly formal balls in Vienna and St. Petersburg. For something even more romantic, consider ringing in 2011 in Venice’s Piazza San Marco, where thousands of people are encouraged to kiss their partners as a light show makes little hearts appear to fall from the sky.