One of my favorite Disney holiday traditions is Holidays Around the World at Epcot. This year the event runs from November 28 – December 30 and includes “Joyful! A Gospel Celebration of the Season”, Candlelight Processional, a special version of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth and holiday music, food and special performances in World Showcase.
It's no secret that Epcot is my family's favorite park and we spend a lot of time in World Showcase. So when we visited Walt Disney World Resort for the holidays we were determined to see and do as many of these international holiday traditions as we could fit in. Some of the pavilions have musical peformances but our favorites were the holiday storytellers. These performers each tell an engaging, kid-friendly story about holiday traditions in their country.
In Germany, Helga, tells the tale of the first Christmas tree and the Nutcracker; this one is a kid-favorite.
In the United Kingdom you'll meet Father Christmas in the United Kingdom and in France you can listen to the tales of Pere Noel. In Italy meet the good witch La Befana who brings Epiphany gifts to children. In Japan hear the tale of the Daruma doll and Japanese New Year traditions. In Norway Sigrid tells the story about Julenissen, the Christmas Gnome; this is another popular one with kids. Morocco has a new storyteller this year with a focus on Moroccan festivals and celebrations.
Some of the storytellers from the past have been replaced with musical performances. This year the Three Kings in Mexico were replaced with mariachi music and dancing in Fiesta de Navidad. Papa Noel in Canada was replaced in 2013 with The Canadian Holiday Voyageurs, a musical tour of Canadian holiday traditions. My personal favorite, the Monkey King in China, has been replaced this year with the Chinese Lion Dance. I really enjoyed the storytellers but these high-energy musical performances might provide a better balance to keep kids engaged.
If you have young children, you won't want to miss Santa and Mrs. Claus in the American Adventure pavilion. This isn't a performance but a one-on-one meet and greet, running daily from November 29 – December 24. This pavilion also includes storytellers for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, and the Voices of Liberty Dickens Carolers will perform holiday classics.
The World Showcase performances run daily starting at [11:20] and run throughout the afternoon and evening. Performance times are staggered but there are too many to see them all in one day. See the Times Guide for the schedule. Crowds for these performances aren't usually too bad (except on peak days) but they tend to gather after the performance starts and people see something going on. If you want a good view, arrive 5 minutes early for the performance. Stay after the show to get pictures with the performers. We got some really wonderful pictures that way.
Many World Showcase pavilions will also have unique holiday merchandise and special holiday treats, including sweet tamales at La Catina de San Angel in Mexico, buche de noel au chocolate (chocolate cake log) at Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie in France and gingerbread men in the American Adventure pavilion. For a hot adult treat try spiced applejack cider in United Kingdom or gluhwein (spiced wine) in Germany. The Disney Food Blog has a complete list of this year's holiday treats.
Candlelight Processional and “Joyful! A Gospel Celebration of the Season”
The Candlelight Processional is an account of the biblical Christmas story, narrated by a celebrity and accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra and a mass choir. The show is free and generally runs daily at 5:00pm, 6:45pm and 8:15pm but check the schedule for your particular date. The show is located in the America Gardens Theatre and seating is on a first-come, first-serve base. Guests will start lining up 45 minutes or more before each show.
Whether you are attending Candlelight Processional or not, you should be aware of the schedule. Guests will begin lining up long before each show, and when a show lets out, the World Showcase walkways and nearby restaurants can get really packed. Don't plan on getting through the crush in a hurry.
“Joyful! A Gospel Celebration of the Season” is the only performance that takes place in Future World. This musical showcase runs daily November 29 – December 29 at 1:15pm, 2:15pm, 3:15pm and 4:15pm on the Fountain Stage.
IlluminNations! Reflections of Earth
We're big fans of IllumiNations! Reflections of Earth so the special holiday finale, featuring “Let There Be Peace on Earth”, was a can't-miss for our family.
For more Disney World holiday tips check out Episode 85 – Holidays at Disney World.