Now Christmastime at Epcot is a very special time of the year. Not only does Future World put on a show, there is also the World Showcase at Christmas where you can join in on celebrations from across the globe. The magic begins as soon as you step off the Monorail (Or Bus, or tram) and enter the parks. The front gates are decorated with garlands and ornaments shaped like the world. And the typical Epcot Park Music Loop is replaced by Christmas Carols all throughout the season.
Once you’re through the gates and in the ‘Leave the Legacy’ section you’ll begin to see the spectacular Christmas foliage that is currently in place all around the park. The center strip has been planted with vivid red poinsettias and there are holiday topiaries to pose with. You’ll find these through out the rest of the park as well as a large cast of characters from mickey and Minnie to Stitch are brought into the celebration.
Future world isn’t overly decorated, but you will find some spectacular pieces in certain places. Take the Land for example: Not only will you find a series of spectacular gingerbread houses on the upper floor representing Wald Disney World and Disneyland (and featuring a working train set), but even the Living with the Land ride gets a bit of a make over as trees are decorated for the season. It’s not quite an overlay, since the ride itself is the same as it is all year round, but it’s fun to see the parks getting into the season. And while you’re there don’t forget to catch a ride on Soarin’. And pay close attention to that last scene!
As you head towards the World Showcase you’ll notice a stage by the central fountain. This is where you can catch “Joyful: A Gospel Celebration of the Season” full of holiday gospel classics that you’ll love to sing along to. After the show turn around and you’ll see the Epcot Christmas tree that sits right at the juncture between Future World and the World Showcase. The massive tree (which made my list of best WDW Christmas trees earlier this month) features ornaments with flags from around the world and can be seen clearly seen from across the World Showcase.
All 11 pavilions join in on the celebrations in their own ways with additional food choices, Christmas character meet and greets, and the crown jewel of Christmas, the Candlelight processional.
In Canada you can catch a Holiday concert by the Canadian Holiday Voyagers. The six member each represents a different part of the country and hey each share the kind of music you can find in their part of the country, whether it be country, Celtic, rock, etc. It’s a fun addition to the park at the holidays and makes use of the stage.
Visitors can also gather around to hear tales of the mischievous Malyuks of the Inuit cultures and the traditional celebrations of Quebec all told by Lumberjack Nowell. (Did ya catch what they did there?) Funnily enough, this lumberjack looks a lot like Santa…
The Christmas centerpieces in the British Pavilion are the tea topiary, the spiced hard cider and a meet and greet with Father Christmas himself. This Santa will lead you in songs and tell you about the traditions we know today that came from the United Kingdom in the past!
Sadly, this is the first Christmas where the World Showcase Players won’t be putting on their version of an interactive Christmas carol. But the pavilion is still a fun stop at Christmas time.
The French Pavilion is decorated with giant ornaments filled with scenes of Paris, garlands across the Parisian streets and some of the best Christmas food in the park. You can get Gingerbread ice cream, and a traditional Bouche du Noel, or traditional Christmas Yule Log cakes. You can even meet Pere Noel for a Christmas story.
Morocco has a new Story Teller to add to the Holiday’s Around the World she dances plays before she tells the stories of Celebrations in Morocco. She tells of Harvest festivals of Fez as they pick the olives and throw a party in celebration. The next is the Almond festival with its sweet foods. The Rose festival is celebrated as miles of roses bloom. Now these aren’t Christmas celebrations, but its still fun to learn about the holidays from around the world. You can also get a special version of holiday Baklava to snack on while you watch a show.
In Japan you can lean about the Daruma Doll, or the wishing doll. The doll has blank eyes when it is purchased or made. When the new owner makes a wish, or sets a goal, they fill in one eye while leaving the second eye blank. When the goal is met or the wish is fulfilled the other eye is filled.
The American pavilion is the centerpiece of an Epcot Christmas because it hosts the Candlelight Processional. The Processional features celebrity narrators reading from the Nativity story from Luke. In between passages a full choir sings Christmas Carols accompanied by an Orchestra and the Voices of Liberty. The theater is always full as this is not something to miss.
Feel free to grab a cup of hot cocoa and a cookie from Mrs. Clause in Santa’s village while you wait for the show to start. And after the Processional you can go and meet Santa Clause before taking a photo with the jolly old elf.
During the day you can also learn about Hanukkah, the celebration of lights, a traditional holiday for the Jewish People. The celebration lasts 8 days and commemorates the 8 days that the temple lights stayed lit when there was only enough oil for one day left in the lamps. This year the Hanukkah celebration lasts from December 16th until Christmas Eve. There is also a booth where you can learn about Kwanzaa, an African American tradition celebrated from December 26th to January 1st. By the way, you can celebrate both Christmas and Kwanza just as you can celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas.
In addition to the decorations and Panettone visitors to the Italy Pavilion can also hear the story of La Befana, or ‘the gift giver’. She is a good witch who has been giving Italian children gifts on the Day of the Epiphany for hundreds (if not thousands) of years.
Germany may be the most festive of all of the Pavilions, mainly because in Germany it’s Christmas all year ‘round. No not in the country, in the Pavilion. Even in the middle of the summer you can find Christmas Trees and ornaments and even buy traditional Holiday cookies. So it makes sense that at Christmas time they would go above and beyond their normal faire. The Beirgarden restaurant gets decorated and the traditional band puts on a show for the holidays as guests eat their fill. During the show, cast members tell stories and even host a tree lighting ceremony.
After dinner you can go to the Christmas store to pick up a new ornament for your tree, or you can go to the Teddy Bear store for that last gift. Or you can go watch Helga tell a Christmas tale in front of the toy train garden.
In China, the Holiday around the World is the Chinese New year. Guests can see performances by traditional Lion dancers and eat traditional holiday snacks. The Lion Dance has been performed for over two thousand years for the New Year Celebrations in Chinese communities around the world. The lion is supposed to represent bravery and bring good luck to the community.
The dance is performed by two dancers. The costume features a fully articulated head with blinking eyes, flapping ears and a moving mouth. The tail even wags as the lion dances across the stage and up on platforms. The acrobatics and rhythmic movement of the dance is captivating and the Lion itself is wonderful as it does it work spreading good luck to all for the New Year.
In Norway, stop to watch Sigrid and Yule Nissan tell about a Norwegian Christmas before heading to the Kringla Bakeri og Kafe for some fantastic food including the rice pudding I mentioned the other day.
Feliz Navida from Mexico! Now there are a few things that you should see in the Mexico Pavilion in Holiday’s around the world. The mariachi band puts on a Navidad show with dancing and singing. They tell the story of the Poinsettia as a story in music and dance. They bring the children up to dance and even reenact the traditional Christmas procession before being able to break a piñata. At other times during the day The Three Wisemen tell the story of Christmas in Mexico. Don’t forget that you can stop along the way to grab some sweet Tamales!
Illuminations: Peace on earth
After spending the Holidays Around the World, gather around the World Showcase Lagoon for a holiday edition of Illuminations including an additional ending that lights up the sky. So happy holidays from Disney Kate and next time you are in Epcot during Christmas make sure you stop into Epcot.