In Windows Live Photo Gallery, there's an easy way to view photos by date taken:
How do I accomplish the same thing in iPhoto '11?
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Yes! If you're in Events, you can go to the View menu, hover on Sort Events and check the By Date option. This will do the same thing for Photos if you're selected on Photos. This will sort the Events or Photos you're looking at by date taken. As you're scrolling though them, a HUD will show the month they were taken.
Hope this helps.
If you create a whole year's worth of smart albums like @daviesgeek has, and you have Keyboard Maestro installed, you can use a macro I created to change a set of twelve Smart Albums to represent a different year. The instructions and macro file are available here.