All of my life, I have been fascinated by the diversity in holiday traditions around the world. I grew up in New Braunfels, Texas – a charming little town (at least it was little back then) steeped in German and Mexican culture. My grandparents were Irish and Native American on my mother’s side, and as authentically Mexican as they come on my stepdad’s side. These influences combined so brilliantly in my childhood to make such wonderful cultural understanding. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why I adore Epcot’s Holidays Around the World. Every time I visit, I find that giddy little kid emerging again, as I soak up the performances of the storytellers. I’ll admit, I sit right down with the kids, interact with the storytellers, grin like crazy, and sometimes even catch a little tear developing in my eye when a particularly sweet or nostalgic memory comes to mind.I cannot say enough about how enjoyable this event is. Disney does this one so very very right! Holidays Around the World is included with your Epcot admission. (In other words, it’s better than the Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom AND free!!)
This year’s event runs from November 29 to December 29, with several performances in each Epcot “country” daily. Locations for the performances are designated by framed scrolls that tell briefs of each country’s storyteller at their respective staging areas. Each presentation lasts about 10-15 minutes.
Mexico is one that is particularly close to my heart. Los Tres Reyes Magos (the Three Kings) tell of the celebration of Las Posadas and Three Kings Day. (1:45, 2:35, 3:20, 4:05, 5:40, 6:30, 7:30)
Norway storyteller Sigrid introduces you to the mischievous Christmas Gnome, Julenissen. Together, they put on a truly humorous display. (3:10, 3:50, 4:30, 5:10, 5:50, 6:35, 7:15, 7:55)
The nimble Monkey King tells a lively tale about the Chinese New Year, while wowing the audience with his prowess and skills. (12:10, 12:45, 1:30, 2:15, 3:20, 4:00, 4:50, 5:50)
In Germany, Helga shares the story of the first Christmas, the origins of many familiar traditions and the tale of the nutcracker. Be alert for a surprise guest! (1:00, 2:00, 2:55, 3:55, 5:30, 6:05, 6:40, 7:15)
The kindly Italian witch La Befana recites the story of the epiphany over 2000 years ago. (11:55, 12:50, 1:25, 2:00, 2:55, 3:50, 4:45, 5:55)
The American Adventure has an array of holiday merriment to explore. Visit Santa’s Village, where you can meet Santa and Mrs. Claus (1:30, 3:30, 5:30, 7:30), and catch storytellers sharing the traditions of Kwanzaa (11:15, 11:45, 12:30, 1:00, 2:00, 2:30, 3:30, 4:00) and Hanukkah (11:30, 12:15, 12:45, 1:15, 1:45, 2:45, 3:15, 4:15, 4:45).
Learn about the story of the Daruma doll and Japanese New Year customs in Japan. (12:10, 12:50, 1:35, 2:20, 2:55, 3:45, 4:45, 5:55)
Moroccan drummer Taarji details the traditional customs of family at Ramadan. (2:15, 3:00, 4:35, 5:40, 6:20, 7:35)
France’s Pere Noel will tug at your heart strings when he explains the magic of Christmas from a child’s perspective. (11:20, 11:55, 12:30, 1:15, 2:05, 3:30, 4:20, 5:05)
In the United Kingdom, meet Father Christmas for generations of Christmas traditions and tales. (2:45, 3:45, 4:30, 5:30, 6:10, 6:45, 7:30, 8:30)
The Canadian Holiday Voyageurs provide a musical tour of seasonal customs in Canada. The lively, bilingual sing-alongs are a blast to witness – AND take part in! (12:40, 1:40, 2:40, 3:40, 4:40, 6:00)
As if this weren’t enough entertainment, Epcot also presents the breathtaking Candlelight Processional. The Candlelight Processional is a truly inspiring performance, incorporating a 50-piece orchestra, mass choir comprised of Disney Cast Members and various celebrity guest narrators. Together, through spoken word and music, they tell the tale of the birth of the Baby Jesus. Even though I am not a religious person, I cannot help but feel incredibly moved by the delivery of this beautiful story. Personally, I’ll be missing my hero Susan Lucci (a Processional regular) this year, but there’s still a grand list of narrators scheduled for 2013.
Gary Sinise Nov. 29 – December 1
Neil Patrick Harris December 2–3
Ashley Judd December 4-5
Whoopi Goldberg December 6-7
Sigourney Weaver December 8-10
Dennis Haysbert December 11-13
James Denton December 14-16
Edward James Olmos December 17-19
Trace Adkins December 20-22
Steven Curtis Chapman Dec. 23-25
Blair Underwood December 26-28
Amy Grant December 29-30
The Candlelight Processional takes place three times nightly (5:00pm, 6:45pm, and 8:15pm) at the America Gardens Theatre. Be forewarned, this event fills up quickly just about every time. Your best options to assure that you have a seat are either to wait in line (starts forming AT LEAST one hour in advance), or take advantage of the Candlelight Processional Dining Package. Chances are, if you’re spending the day at Epcot, you’ll be eating there, so plan your meal in advance and make your evening shows much more enjoyable. That’s right… I said SHOWS – plural! By taking part in the dining package, you have your lunch or dinner reservation secured, as well as reserved seating for the Candlelight Processional and the special holiday version of IllumiNations, Reflections of Earth. The package meal includes your choice of appetizer, entree, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage (or a buffet meal where applicable). Prices vary depending on restaurant and lunch/dinner option. Lunch runs around $35-$65 per adult, and dinner ranges from $50-$75. The Disney Dining Plan can be used to pay for the package. For a list of participating restaurants, click here.
Don’t overlook the rest of the festive decor throughout the park as well. Towering trees stand at both ends of Epcot, just before World Showcase, and in the American Pavilion. Repurposed topiaries from the Flower and Garden Festival reappear with holiday accents. Special holiday treats are served throughout the park. AND…. Duffy is out in his Santa suit!