Christmas and New Year are the obvious big end-of-year highlights, and we've certainly got those covered, but we're also extremely excited about some of the non-festive highlights this month: Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse's fascinating South African documentary photography exhibition makes its only European stop in Edinburgh from Mon Dec 6, while the decades-spanning 'Game Masters' exhibition also kicks off at the National Museum of Scotland. Both well worth a visit (though you can always wait until the New Year if you'd rather catch the Christmassy stuff before it's gone).
Things to do
Illicit Ink: The Company We Keep, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Fri Dec 5
Edinburgh spoken word outfit Illicit Ink present 'a sinister story of capitalism, corruption and office romance gone awry', just in case you needed a counterpoint to all that festive cheer.
Summerhall Beer Festivale, Summerhall, Fri Dec 5 & Sat Dec 6
A craft beer and street food extravaganza, with Barney's, Williams Bros and Top Out on the brewer's side and The Rum Guys and Pickering's Gin offering alternatives.
Christmas Charity Festival, Inverleith Park, Sat Dec 6 & Sun Dec 7
Home to several fancy-dress fun runs (there's another one in Princes Street Gardens on the 12th if you can't make this one), this festive two-dayer puts an emphasis on family-friendly events, with walks, toddles and buggy runs in addition to a selection of fundraising stalls.
An Evening with Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Kenton Cool, Olly Hicks and Ben Fogle, The Hub, Mon Dec 8
The four adventurers gather to discuss their various careers and expeditions, with many a hair-raising tale thrown in, we'd wager.
Sven Werner: Station Stories, Wavereley Station, Wed Dec 10-Sat Dec 13
Enjoy a free Victoriana-style installation before or after your journey, as Theatre Cryptic’s Sven Werner – together with his team of costumed, in-character assistants – guide you through a world of magical miniatures to celebrate the Year of Homecoming 2014.
Ian Rankin: The Beat Goes On, Blackwell’s, Tue Dec 11
Scotland's foremost proponent of tartan noir launches a new short story selection featuring his greatest creation, Inspector Rebus.
Festive Family Fun Day, Palace of Holyrood House, Sat Dec 21 & Sat Dec 28
The Queen's official Scottish residence comes over all Christmassy at this pair of family-friendly events, with storytelling, face painting, arts and crafts, festive food and Christmas carol performances, plus classic Victorian games, activities and costumes for the kiddies.
Edinburgh’s Christmas, City Centre, until Sun Jan 4
Three Christmas markets, an ice rink apiece in St Andrew Square and Princes Street and a fully operational Santa Land now complement the iconic Big Wheel at the capital's annual festive festival, with numerous shows and performances into the evening.
Game Masters, National Museum of Scotland, until Mon Apr 20
Giving the museum an atmosphere of arcade excitement, 'Game Masters' celebrates over 30 years of video gaming history, including the work of Peter Molyneux ('Minecraft'), Warren Spector ('Deus Ex'), Tim Schafer ('Grim Fandango') and Hideo Kojima ('Metal Gear Solid').
Theatre & Dance
The Devil Masters, Traverse Theatre, Sat Dec 6-Wed Dec 24
Surreal black comedy in which an upper-middle class couple - both working in the legal profession - enter into tense negotiations when an intruder breaks into their home.
Dune: The Musical, Pilrig St Paul’s Church, Fri Dec 12
Irregular Owl Movements (aka the electronica wing of post-folkies eagleowl) stage their first ever panto: a musical adaptation of David Lynch's space opera. There's also musical support from Prehistoric Friends and special guests. Probably not Sting though.
White, Traverse Theatre, Wed Dec 17-Wed Dec 24
Child-friendly festive show in which an entirely white world gradually becomes infected with colour in the run-up to Christmas.
The BFG, Royal Lyceum Theatre, until Sat 3 Jan
The Lyceum’s Christmas show this year is a restaging of Roald Dahl’s gruesome fairytale concerning plucky orphans, man-eating giants and stinky snozzcumbers.
Scottish Ballet’s The Nutcracker, Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Sat Dec 13-Sat Jan 3
A traditional Christmas highlight, 'The Nutcracker' (as choreographed by company founder Peter Darrell) is one of the biggest guns in the Scottish Ballet armoury. This year's edition features sets from Olivier Award-winning designer Lez Brotherston, as young Clara dreams her way through adventures with the Nutcracker Prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Stick Man, St Andrew Square, until Sun Jan 4
Julia Donaldson’s story of a twiggy hero attempting to return home to the family tree is adapted for the stage by children’s theatre company Scamp (who previously proved their book adaptation chops with Michael Morpurgo's ‘Private Peaceful’).
Wicked, The Edinburgh Playhouse, until Sat Jan 10
The hit West End musical is finally on tour around the UK, letting Edinburgh’s theatre-goers in on the origin story of the Wicked Witch of the West.
Aladdin, King’s Theatre, until Sun Jan 18
In Edinburgh’s pantomime season, this is the grand daddy (or dame). Panto pros Allan Stewart, Andy Gray and the villainous Grant Stott (boo hiss!) are the ones rubbing the lamp this year, with 3D special effects now a standard part of the bargain.
Hardeep’s Charity Night for Food Banks, The Stand, Tue 9 Dec
Dylan Moran and Janey Godley join Hardeep Singh Kohli for a night of kind-spirited comedy, where the entry fee is a bag full of shopping for those less fortunate. Check out The Stand website for a suggested list of contents.
John Cleese: So Anyway, EICC, Sat Dec 13
The actor, writer and comedian launches his latest book with an autobiographical show covering everything from his childhood first performance to the world of Monty Python.
Al Murray: The Pub Landlord’s Festive Saloon, St Andrew Square, Mon Dec 29-Wed Dec 31
The satirical character creation hosts a festive variety show of comedy, music and more.
POP Maskulinity, Gayfield Creative Spaces, until Thu Dec 11
Free group show exploring the modern image of masculinity, curated by the Polish Contemporary Art Organisation.
Generation: 25 Years of Contemporary Scottish Art, Scottish National Galleries, until Sun Jan 25
The nationwide Generation project, which celebrates the last quarter-century of Scottish visual art, rumbles on with exhibitions and installations at all three of Edinburgh’s National Galleries. We’re particularly impressed with the fantastic show at Modern Art One, which features works by Ross Sinclair, Graham Fagen, Douglas Gordon, Alison Watt and Charles Avery.
Chloe Dewe Mathews: Shot at Dawn, Stills Gallery, until Sun Jan 25
Catch this evocative photography exhibition, which captures landscapes of WWI execution sites in the modern day, before it heads down south to the Tate.
RSA Open, Royal Scottish Academy, until Tue Jan 20
It’s time again for the Royal Scottish Academy’s always essential Open exhibition, bringing together contemporary artists from across Scotland and beyond.
Christopher Orr: The Beguiled Eye, Talbot Rice Gallery, until Sat Feb 14
There's a contrast of style and content in this exhibition, as Orr uses the artistic grammar of the Old Masters to depict anachronistic scenes from 1950s postcards and National Geographic magazines, overlaying the whole with a sinister, spectral element.
Gap in the Air: A Festival of Sonic Art, Talbot Rice Gallery, until Sat Feb 14
Making fantastic use of William Playfair’s domed Georgian Gallery design, this series showcases sonic art in one of the city’s most acoustically-inclined galleries. The season kicks of with Disinformation’s sine wave installation ‘The Analysis of Beauty’.
Stan Douglas, Fruitmarket Gallery, until Sun Feb 15
Exhibition of the Canadian artist's noirish film, video and photography works that explore the junction between history and memory.
BP Portrait Award, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Sat Nov 29-Sun Apr 12
Prestigious international portraiture exhibition, showcasing selected entries in addition Thomas Ganter’s winning painting of a homeless German windscreen washer.
Tony Conrad: Invented Acoustical Tools, Inverleith House, until Sun Jan 18
Marking his debut solo appearance in the UK, this exhibition brings together several of the American artist’s musical instruments, as well as screening his 1966 film ‘The Flicker’. With a performance by Luke Fowler and Lee Patterson on Sun Dec 14.
Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse: Ponte City, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Sun Dec 6-Sun Apr 26
The titular 54-storey residential block in Johannesburg, South Africa was originally built as an upmarket living space for white residents in the 1970s. Post-apartheid, and following a failed renovation, the crumbling monolith is now home to a large number of immigrants from neighbouring African nations. Subotzky and Waterhouse's photography documents the recent history of these immigrants and the building; they'll be launching the event themselves with a talk at the Scottish National Gallery on Sun Dec 6.
Music & Nightlife
Post-Book Yer Ane Fest, Banshee Labyrinth, Mon Dec 1
DIY punk rock label Make That A Take Records celebrate the conclusion of their recent Dundee festival with an Edinburgh after-party, welcoming Joe McMahon, Low Derive, Question the Mark and Paper Rifles to the Banshee basement.
Juice, Sneaky Pete’s, Thu Dec 4 & Thu Dec 11
Sneaky's resident guest-snaring extravaganza pulls a Dutch doubler for its birthday celebrations, welcoming multi-genre hybrid technician Martyn (3024) on Thu Dec 4 and house maestro Tom Trago on Thu Dec 11.
Soundhouse Benefit, Pleasance, Fri Dec 5
Balkan ska outfit Orkestra Del Sol join forces with trad folk quartet Salt House, bluegrass duo Old Dollar Bill and the Moon Hop DJs (featuring Found's Lomond Campbell and River of Slime) to raise funds for a new Edinburgh music venue.
In Deep, Sneaky Pete’s, Fridays throughout December
Another stellar month for Sneaky's superlative Friday nighter, with sets from Fabric's Bill Brewster (Fri Dec 5), Highlife's Auntie Flo and Esa (Fri Dec 12) and a double-team of hoya:hoya's Jon K and Firecracker Recordings' House of Traps (Fri Dec 19).
Ben Howard, Usher Hall, Sat Dec 6
The indie-folk singer-songwriter plays tunes from his new album 'I Forget Where We Were', the follow-up to his Mercury Award-nominated 'Every Kingdom'.
Samedia Shebeen, The Mash House, Sat Dec 6
The 'late night travelling township den and tropical music club' heads indoors after a summer touring open air festivals, presenting a live club set from dub/cumbia experiment Cucumelo Radio.
Vasquez, Sneaky Pete’s, Fri Dec 12
Intelligent, polyrhythmic riffola from the Edinburgh three-piece, with support from fellow travellers Alpha Male Tea Party, Cleft and Britney.
The Sculpture Party, ECA, Fri Dec 12
Annual bash thrown by the ECA's Sculpture Department, this year featuring No Globe, Night of the Jaguar, Tigerbeat, Hi and Saberhägen, Telfort, Dan Juice, Zzzap, Percy Main Social Club and DJ Yves.
Hot Dub Time Machine, St Andrew Square, Wed Dec 10-Wed Dec 17
DJ Tom Loud returns to the site of previous Fringe successes with his decades-spanning, crowd pleasing, audio-visual disco party.
Kid Canaveral’s Christmas Baubles, Portobello Town Hall, Sat Dec 13
The Edinburgh indie-pop quartet host their fifth annual festive fling, this year featuring Paws, Sweet Baboo, The Pictish Trail, Hector Bizerk, Randolph's Leap, Syneasthete, The Spook School and Ibibio Sound Machine, not forgetting Kid Canaveral themselves.
Song by Toad Christmas Party, Henry’s Cellar Bar, Sat Dec 20
Annual Crimbo shindig from the Edinburgh DIY label, with performances from Plastic Animals and Garden of Elks plus a DJ sets from Irregular Owl Movements (aka eagleowl) and Mrs Toad.
The RSNO Christmas Concert: The Snowman, Usher Hall, Sun Dec 21
Actor Blythe Duff joins the Royal Scottish National Orchestra for a performance of Raymond Briggs' famous wintry story, with a few extra Christmas treats thrown in.
Madchester Boxing Day Bash, Liquid Room, Fri Dec 26
UK hip hop electronica stalwarts the Stereo MCs join the long-running baggy anthem night in celebrating their 20th birthday.
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, various venues, Tue Dec 30-Thu Jan 1
The capital's three-day end-of-year blow-out is justly regarded as one of the finest shindigs in the world. Get into the Concert in the Gardens to see Lily Allen's headline set; join thousands of revellers at the Street Party, soundtracked by homegrown heroes The Twilight Sad, Twin Atlantic and Mercury Prize winners Young Fathers; or forego the hangover route and save yourself for New Year's Day, when a selection of Scotland's finest creatives (including King Creosote, Alasdair Roberts, Withered Hand and Neu Reekie) stage special events as part of the Scot:Lands programme.
FourbyFour and Pulse Hogmanay Special, Studio 24, Wed Dec 31
There are loads of excellent Hogmanay parties going on all over Edinburgh this New Year's Eve (not least the official events mentioned above) - our pick of the unofficial highlights is this collaboration between two of Edinburgh's foremost techno nights.
Black Sea, from Fri Dec 5
Kevin Macdonald directs a Scottish-accented Jude Law in this entry into the lesser known 'Nazi gold submarine heist thriller' genre. There's also support from some of our favourite working character actors, Ben Mendelsohn and Scoot McNairy.
The Grandmaster, from Fri Dec 5
Hong Kong stylist supreme Wong Kar-Wai returns to the martial arts genre with this biopic of Ip Man (aka Bruce Lee's mentor) starring Tony Leung and Zang Zhiyi (both of whom previously co-starred in wuxia epic 'Hero').
Penguins of Madagascar, from Fri Dec 5
Following in the pawprints of 'Puss in Boots', this is the second fun-packed Dreamworks spin-off that may actually surpass the franchise that spawned it, as the group of arctic escapees embark on a fun-filled adventure.
St Vincent, from Fri Dec 5
Not a documentary about wild-haired alt-rock performer Annie Clark, but one of those heartwarming unsavoury-old-man-forms-bond-with-impressionable-kid dramedies. Bill Murray has been widely praised for his title performance as said unsavoury old man.
The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, from Fri Dec 12
Whether or not you feel Peter Jackson was justified in splitting 'The Hobbit' into three movies, you can't argue with the director's skill at bringing the world of Middle Earth to life. Relish what's likely to be his final sojourn there (until someone pitches him 'The Silmarillion').
Steamboat Bill Jr, Royal Botanic Gardens, Fri Dec 12
Buster Keaton's famous silent comedy - the one where he survives a house collapse by standing under a conveniently placed window - gets the live re-score treatment at the Botanics from musicians Jane Gardner (piano), Roddy Long (violin) and Hazel Morrison (percussion).
Big Eyes, from Fri Dec 26
Tim Burton directs this biopic of 1950s artist Margaret Keane (here played by Amy Adams), whose husband Walter (Christoph Waltz) took credit for her popular paintings of big-eyed children.
Annie, from Fri Dec 26
'Beasts of the Southern Wild's Quvenzhane Wallis stars in this remake of the 1982 musical as the orphan who embarks on an adventure when she is adopted by wealthy Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx taking on the Daddy Warbucks role).
Exodus: Gods and Kings, from Fri Dec 26
Following on from of Darren Aronofsky's 'Noah', Ridley Scott delivers his own effects-laden biblical epic, this one focusing on Moses (Christian Bale) and the seven plagues of Egypt.
Unbroken, from Fri Dec 26
Angelina Jolie directs rising star Jack O'Connell ('Starred Up', '71') in this true WWII survival story penned by the Coen brothers.