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8 New Ways To Celebrate The Holidays

By: Arushi Mehra

Singing carols with a choir, roasting chestnuts on a fire, avoiding politics till it's time to retire—this year, maybe it's time for a new holiday tradition. Here are 8 places that inspire (and a few hotels we admire) that'll give you reason to swap out the stuffed bird and eggnog for fried chicken and a glass of warm Gløgg. 

NEW YORK: Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree

Every year, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree upstages and out-sparkles everyone in town—even Fifth Avenue's famed window displays. Join the annual tree lighting ceremony on November 28th and while you're in town, check out the holiday markets. Bryant Park's Winter Village is already in full swing, the Union Square Holiday Market opens November 15th and the market in Columbus Circle starts the same day the glittering tree is lit. Stay at the equally sparkly Baccarat Hotel New York. Make sure you save time for some pampering at the hotel's Spa de La Mer to offset schlepping all those holiday shopping bags around the city.

TOKYO: Here Comes Santa Claus

Dig into a bucket of KFC this Christmas. It's a tradition that 3.6 million holiday revelers keep up in Japan. Dating back to the '70s, this Christmas miracle began when a couple of foreigners looked high and low for a Christmas goose (okay, turkey) and finally had to settle on a bucket of Colonel Sanders' best. Stay at the Park Hyatt Tokyo—a shiny skyscraper that has gorgeous views of Tokyo, Mount Fuji and possibly Santa's sleigh.

LONDON: Deck the Halls!

Enjoy a very proper Christmas across the pond at The Dorchester. Their holiday afternoon tea has it all: decked out halls, scrumptious festive delights, bubbling champagne and a talented local school choir singing traditional holiday carols. After all the finger sandwiches your heart desires, stroll across Park Lane to Hyde Park's famous Winter Wonderland—a sprawling celebration that makes for the perfect family outing. Check into The Dorchester—an elegant, timeless abode in London's posh Mayfair district.

BARCELONA: It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Ask a Spaniard what they're doing at midnight on New Year's Eve and you'll be in for a surprise: there are no fireworks, champagne toasts or countdowns culminating in smooches—instead, when the clock strikes twelve, locals are busy devouring twelve grapes to ensure good fortune each month of the coming year. After downing a dozen, only then can the revelers proceed with celebrating into the wee hours of the morning. Follow suit this December with a stay at Hotel Arts Barcelona, the city's liveliest address.

VIENNA: Silver Bells, Silver Bells

It's easy to fall in love with Vienna during Christmas. Visit the merry and bright holiday markets that crop up at the feet of the city's towering Baroque beauties, listen to Mozart at Schönbrunn Palace or glide around the ice rink while the Vienna Konzerthaus twinkles in the background. Stay in the center of the city at Hotel Sacher Wien and don't forget to make your holiday reservations early!

COPENHAGEN: Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Celebrate a hygge-filled holiday season with the family in the charming Danish capital. Stroll through the sparkling Tivoli Gardens, watch the ballet at the Royal Theatre, warm up with a glass of Gløgg (warm Danish punch) or treat your sweet-tooth to goodies from Somods Bolcher—the official candyman for the Danish royals. Stay at the city's famed grande-dame Hotel D'Angleterre, overlooking the holiday bustle along the Nyhavn Canal.

SAN FRANCISCO: It's Beginning To Look Like Christmas

Soak up the charm of Victorian London at the annual Great Dickens Christmas Fair (Nov 17-Dec 23). The elaborate party has costumed performers, live music, specialty shops and traditional British holiday fare. Stay at the St. Regis San Francisco—a celebrity-approved, modern masterpiece in the heart of the city's shopping and museum district (complete with an indoor infinity pool!)

PRAGUE: Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!

Prague is lovely year-round, but during Christmas time, things get a bit more magical. After exploring Old Town's sparkling, snow-dusted cobblestone streets, duck into a cozy Czech cafe for a steaming cup of Svařák (fragrant mulled wine) and a warm cinnamon strudel. Choose the Four Seasons Prague to stay close to the cheer—it's just a minute's walk from the two most popular holiday markets—Old Town and Wenceslas Square.