Well, the Thanksgiving holiday is officially over, and that means I can begin my transition into the Christmas season. Christmas is my favorite time of year, but I’m one of these people that will shake my head in frustration/disgust every time I hear a Christmas song on the radio before Thanksgiving or see Christmas merchandise in stores before Halloween. We don’t even begin decorating our house for Christmas until after the Thanksgiving festivities are officially over. Again, I love Christmas! I just feel like these end of the year holidays should all have their own celebrations and identities even though they are so close together.
That being said, I am so excited about the Christmas season in Walt Disney World! A friend of mine was telling me how she would love to go to Walt Disney World around Christmas time to see all of the beautiful decorations. This got me thinking (naturally) about what things I would recommend that she, or someone who has never been during this time of year, should not miss out on. There’s so much to see and experience during this time of year in the parks as well as resort hotels from the lighting of Cinderella Castle to the life-size gingerbread house on display in the lobby of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Keeping the list to a reasonable size will be a challenge, but I’m definitely up for the task.
Candlelight Processional at Epcot
Every year Epcot puts on nightly performances of the telling of the Christmas story from the Bible with various celebrity narrators, a full choir, dazzling lights, and a 50-piece symphonic orchestra playing Christmas music that will make the heart of any Grinch grow 3 sizes.
The Candlelight Processional runs 3 times each evening in Epcot’s World Showcase at the outdoor America Gardens Theater located at the American Adventure pavilion. For 2017, shows are at 5:00, 6:45, and 8:15 PM and the celebrity narrator line-up is as follows:
•Laurie Hernandez: November 24 to 26, 2017
•Matt Bomer: November 27 to 28, 2017
•Ana Gasteyer: November 29 to 30, 2017
•Whoopi Goldberg: December 1 to 3, 2017
•Pat Sajak: December 4 to 5, 2017
•Jodi Benson: December 6 to 8, 2017
•Kurt Russell: December 9 to 11, 2017
•Warwick Davis: December 12 to 14, 2017
•Trace Adkins: December 15 to 17, 2017
•Neil Patrick Harris – December 18 to 21, 2017
•CCH Pounder: December 22 to 24, 2017
•Jaci Velasquez: December 25 to 27, 2017
•Chandra Wilson: December 28 to 30, 2017
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
Several times of year, Disney puts on special events at the Magic Kingdom that are only open to people who have purchased an additional ticket (aside from the regular admission ticket to the park). During the fall, they do this for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party. The park closes for non-event guests at 7:00 pm and then stays open until midnight for guests who have purchased the additional ticket.
During the Christmas season, the Magic Kingdom hosts Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. At this event, guests are treated to Christmas music in the parks, a special Christmas parade with the big guy himself. Of course, I’m talking about Santa, not Mickey (although, Mickey is there as well). Guests are also treated to hot cocoa and cookies at no additional charge, a special Christmas fireworks show, and they even find a way to make it snow on Main Street!
For 2017, the event dates are: November 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 26, 28, and December 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 22. The price for this separate hard-ticketed event is pricey and continues to go up each and every year with prices starting at $93 for adults and $87 for children ages 3-9 (children under 3 are free). However, I was say that, between the festivities and the smaller crowds that you typically experience due to it being a separate hard-ticketed event, it’s still an event that’s worth the money in my opinion. There is one caveat I would add relating to the smaller crowd sizes. This is the case on many of the party nights. However, you start to see much larger crowds at this event as you get closer to Christmas as more families are coming down for vacation as well as weekends, when many of the Florida residents are popping over for a quick visit. Another date to steer clear of, if you’re expecting smaller crowds, is the first party of the season. That one tends to sell out pretty quickly every year.
Epcot recently started advertising their Christmas and holiday festivities as one giant event known as “Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays”. Along with food kiosks featuring food from all over the world, the aforementioned Candlelight Processional, the nighttime fireworks show “Illuminations” with a special “holiday tag” at the end, and much more, there is one thing in particular that I think is very special and unique. Each year, you will find holiday storytellers in each of the 11 pavilions representing various countries in World Showcase. At various times throughout the day, a storyteller (many times dressed up as whatever version of Santa Clause that particular country recognizes) will come out and talk about how that particular country celebrates Christmas or other holiday. This includes telling about traditions and festivities that the citizens of these countries hold near and dear to their hearts during this time of year.
For 2017, the storytellers and times featured in each of the 11 pavilions are as follows:
Celebrate with LosTres Reyes Magos, the Three Kings, as they tell of their journey to the Posada and traditions today.
1:45; 2:35; 3:20; 4:05; 4:45; 5:30; 6:30; 7:30pm
Meet the storyteller Sigrid who will tell you of the mischievous Christmas Gnome, Julenissen.
3:10; 3:50; 4:30; 5:10; 5:50; 6:35; 7:15; 7:55pm
Watch the agile Monkey King weave his tall tale with twists and turns celebrating Chinese New Year!
12:10; 12:45; 1:30; 2:15; 3:20; 4:00; 4:50; 5:50pm
Listen as Helga tells the story of the first Christmas tree and the tale of her first Nutcracker.
1:00; 2:00; 2:55; 3:55; 5:30; 6:05; 6:40; 7:15pm
Visit with Italy’s good Christmas witch, La Befana, as she remembers the Epiphany and her first Christmas 2,000 years ago!
1:00; 2:00; 2:40; 3:20; 4:20; 5:20; 6:00; 6:45pm
Christmas: Whisper your Christmas wishes in Santa’s ear. Even Mrs. Claus will be there!
1:30–2:40; 3:30–4:40; 5:30–6:40; 7:30–8:40pm
Kwanzaa: Experience the spirit of Kwanzaa, a celebration of family, creativity and community.
12:20; 1:05; 1:50; 2:35; 3:20; 4:05; 4:45; 6:00pm
Hanukkah: Discover the connection of today’s Hanukkah tradition and the story of the brave Maccabees and the lamp that burned miraculously for eight days
12:15; 1:00; 1:45; 2:25; 3:25; 4:00; 4:50; 5:45pm
Hear the fascinating story of the Daruma doll and the Japanese customs of the NewYear!
12:50; 1:25; 2:15; 3:05; 4:00; 4:50; 5:35; 6:45pm
Find Père Noël as he shares a letter from a little girl that recreates the magic of Christmas through the eyes of a child.
11:20; 11:55; 12:30; 1:15; 2:05; 3:30; 4:20; 5:05pm
Drum with Taarji, as he celebrates the customs of Ramadan and Ashura.
2:10; 2:55; 4:30; 5:35; 6:15; 7:20pm
Spend a moment with jolly Father Christmas, as he makes traditions from Christmas past just as fun today!
2:45; 3:55; 4:35; 5:25; 6:10; 6:45; 7:30; 8:25pm
See Nowell, a Canadian lumberjack, as he tells of his journey to find Santa at Christmastime.
11:15; 12:00; 12:45; 1:30; 2:30; 3:30; 4:30; 5:15pm
The Life-size Gingerbread House Located at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
So far, I’ve talked about several amazing things that you don’t want to miss in the parks at Walt Disney World, but you also don’t want to miss out on the amazing way the resort hotels are decorated for Christmas. Each resort hotel has at least one Christmas tree and decorations that correspond with the theming of the hotel. For instance, over at Disney’s Polynesian Village resort, you’ll find the Christmas décor to be very much tropical, whereas the tree and decorations at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge will have much more of an African feel to them.
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is an elegant hotel with Victorian architecture and a turn-of-the-century style that was popular in Florida around that time. The inside lobby is absolutely luxurious, and during this time of year, they set up a 16-foot high gingerbread house. They even have a cast member inside the house selling packages of gingerbread and other sweet treats for you to enjoy. As for the house itself, it is completely edible and contains:
1,050 lbs. of Honey
140 pints of Egg whites
600 lbs. of Powdered Sugar
700 lbs. of Chocolate, and
35 lbs. of Spices
Shop For Christmas Decor
Ok. So this last item on the list you can do 365 days a year either in a Disney theme park or in Disney Springs, Walt Disney World’s massive themed shopping and entertainment complex. Things are just a little more special, however, when you shop for new Disney-themed Christmas decorations to go in your home while you’re in Walt Disney World during the holidays. Fortunately, there are 2 fantastic locations you can go to get your shopping done.
The first location is located inside Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom inside Liberty Square. The Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe is a store designed, from the outside, to look like 3 different shops in a 1700’s American colonial village. They sell tree-toppers, baubles, toy trains, figurines, Christmas ornaments, and more.
The second location is at Disney Springs in the Marketplace section of the shopping center. This store is called Disney Days of Christmas and here you will find a much larger selection of Christmas decorations, ornaments, and toys. You can even have a Disney ornament personalized while you wait.
There are so many terrific ways to spend your time at the Walt Disney World resort during the holidays. Many people actually take an entire day out of their vacation to leisurely tour all of the various resort hotels on property to take in the various themed Christmas decorations. If you have the time, I highly recommend doing that! However, if you have limited time and have never experienced Christmas and the holidays in Walt Disney World, this list is a great place to start to make sure you experience some of the best displays, shows, and experiences available.