Italian huskies ... Singing shepherds ... Japanese jokes ... Skating Parisians - Travel - The Independent

Italian huskies ... Singing shepherds ... Japanese jokes ... Skating Parisians

Until 2 January

USA

The Orange Bowl Festival and Big Orange New Year's Eve Celebration kicks off in Miami this weekend with various amateur and professional sporting events, and runs sweating and panting through to mid January. The gala events are the massive Orange Bowl Parade taking place on New Year's Eve, and the New Year's day football game, involving various broad shouldered jocks from nationally ranked college teams.

Until 3 January

Belgium

Liege, in the heart of the Belgian Ardennes, celebrates the Christmas story with "Creche de Provence", a nativity scene featuring more than 100 animated figures, sculpted last century. Next to the "living crib", on Place du Marche, is Belgium's biggest Christmas market: more than 120 illuminated chalet stalls selling traditional Christmas goodies, such as baked quails, waffles and, of course, those delicious premier Belgian chocs.

Until 19 May

UK

Ooh! What a Carry On is an exhibition celebrating 40 years of British comedy from the Carry On crew. This dubious delight is being staged by the Museum of the Moving Image, which is delving into the low-budget, kiss-me-quick world of one of British television's most popular film series.

15 December - 9 March

France

The Patinoire de l'Hotel de Ville in Paris features outdoor skating, which will no doubt appeal to romantic Francophiles. The pedestrian square is transformed into a winter wonderland with towering Christmas trees and festive decorations around the ice rink, overlooked by the floodlit facade of the neo-renaissance Hotel de Ville. Open daily 10am-8pm with traditional fairground rides for children.

17-19 December

Japan

The courtly ladies of ancient Japan liked nothing better than a spot of Battledore, particularly at this time of year. Battledore is a badminton- like game traditionally played around New Year and although the sport is no longer actually played, this seasonal tradition is still marked in the Asakusa temple in Tokyo by a three-day festival - the Hagoita Ichi. The Battledore fair has hundreds of ornamental bats for sale with stalls open from 10am-9pm daily. For something a little more serious you could head to the Edo-Tokyo Museum for a two-day Japanese storytelling festival (19-20 December). Although the stories will be of the humorous variety, don't expect to be rolling in the aisles; this is a very traditional, formalised art with a long, distinguished history. You would expect very old jokes told with sombre faces and in reverent tones.

18 December

Spain

If you happen to be in Barcelona this week you have the opportunity to catch a one-off surprise concert by Prince. Held at the city's largest indoor venue, Prince is expecting a huge audience for a show comprising new material taken from his latest Album New Power Soul and such purple oldies as Nothing Compares to you, Kiss and Purple Rain. Performing alongside the mogul from Minneapolis will be The New Power Generation and Larry Graham. Call 00 34 934 262089 for tickets.

18 December

Philippines

Bikol Pastores is a Christmas celebration unique to South Luzon's Albay province. The region's capital, Legaspi, is the site of a festival believed to have originated with singing shepherds who once took to the streets in a colourful procession to honour Christ's birth. Today the city's young men and women dressed as pastores dance through the city's main thoroughfares singing that shepherd's favourite "Pastores A Belen".

19 December

Sweden

On Saturday, Stockholm will bring to a conclusion its year as Cultural Capital of Europe. As part of the final celebrations, many of the city's museums, theatres, concert halls and cinemas will be opening their doors to the public and inviting them in free. Events being staged include the biggest salsa party in Stockholm's history, free entry into the museum of modern art, and a puppet show and special Christmas concert for children.

19-20 December

Italy

The International Dog Sled championships in Madonna di Campiglio, promises to be anything but a dog's life. More popular for smart international events than any of Italy's other resorts, this top-rated ski centre is quite at home playing host to a pack of Siberian huskies, the best DJs from Rimini and London, and the fur-jacket and mirror-shades brigade.

19 December - 1 January

Luxembourg

Wiltz, north of Luxembourg in the snowy Ardennes, is the site of The Caravaner's Winter Rally. More a celebration of mobile-home owners than a "trailer-trash" bash, the rally attracts some 300 caravan enthusiasts from across the counrty. Not put off by the cold weather, these part-time gypsies set up camp for the festive season and warm themselves with games of petanque, plates of black pudding and visits to the local brewery.

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