The Candlelight Processional is a Disney Parks tradition dating all the way back to the early years of Disneyland. It was a tradition that Walt Disney himself put into the park. There is something magical about hearing hundreds of voices singing Christmas Carols and hearing the story of Jesus’s birth read straight out of Luke.
Now most people will tell you that you need to purchase a ticket with the meal package, which will get you a guaranteed seat inside the theater. But if they are all sold out, don’t fear! You still have options. One is to wait in line for a seat; they will fill the theater to the max so you may get seated this way. But if the line is too long, you can still watch the entire show by picking a spot in the American Pavilion. You will have to stand for the show, and the view is limited, but this is an absolute do not miss Epcot event, so even if you have to stand, do it. If you can’t stand that long, then try to get close to the front so you can sit down on the curb to watch. But whatever you do, if you are there please do not miss this!
The Processional starts with the orchestra playing traditional Christmas carols as the crowds take their seats. Soon the Voices of Liberty join in as the Choir takes the stands and the Narrator takes the stage. My favorite narrator is Stephen Curtis Chapman with Amy Grant being a close second. Neither may be traditional Disney stars, but they are still my favorite two nonetheless.
Below is a transcript of the show from its 2013 performance. There are parts that featured in earlier shows that I like better, but I was there for Christmas in 2013 so that’s the show I know the best. Once the Choir is on stage the Orchestra and choir perform Shout for Joy. Before the announcer announces the Guest Narrator for the evening.
“In the 6th month the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a City of Galilee named Nazareth. To a virgin who was betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said “Greetings ‘O favored one, the Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at this saying and tried to discern what sort of greeting that might be. And the Angel said to her “Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God and behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son you shall call his name Jesus.”
(Orchestra and choir perform O’ Come All Ye Faithful.)
“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. And all went each to his own town. Joseph also went up from Galilee out of Nazareth to Judea and to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with Child. While they were there it came time for her to give birth. She gave birth to her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothing and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
(The Voices of Liberty begin to sing Away in Manger before being joined by the choir)
“And in that same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filed with great fear. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people, for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!”
(“Fall On Your Knees!” the Choir Sings as they begin their rendition of “O Holy Night!” Its quick paced and joyful as they sing to a drum beat reminiscent of a marching tune. You can almost picture the song being used to call the Shepherds to the Manger.)
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth, peace! Goodwill toward men!” (The music starts in low and slow as the orchestra and choir perform “Angels from the Realms of Glory.”)
“When the Angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us. And they went over with haste and found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in a Manger. And when they saw them they made know the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds had told them.”
(Il est Ne or He is Born, a traditional French Christmas Carol)
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in the days of Herod the king, behold three wise men came from the east to Jerusalem saying, “Where is he who is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him.” And when they saw the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy!”
(When They Saw The Star/We Three Kings medly)
“And behold the star, which they had seen, went before them until it came and stood over where the little child was. And when they had come into the house they saw the young child with his mother, Mary, and they fell down and worshiped him. And they offered their treasures and offered him their gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”
(Orchestra and choir perform ‘What Child is This?’)
“The story of the Birth of Christ has been told and retold for over 2000 years. About 200 years ago in a small church in Austria the Organist, Franz, came to Joseph Moore and said; “Father Joseph, the organ is broken and we will have no music for the Christmas Eve service”
“Later in the day as Joseph made his rounds he visited a home where a baby had just been born and he thought about the birth of the baby Jesus. He was so inspired that he wrote a poem and went back to the church and found Franz.
He said: “If we can’t have the old organ maybe we can have a new song, and you can play the guitar”.
“Franz said, “But Father, I only know three chords.” “Then make a song with three chords.” Well Franz hummed and strummed and soon composed the most beautiful and beloved of all of Christmas carols.
Heavenly Peace, it is a gift bestowed upon us all during this special time of year. Tonight people around the world mark this joyful season with heartfelt sentiment as we each treasure our unique holiday traditions of family, faith and culture. Let us join together to celebrate the birth of the blessed babe in the manger and rejoice in the universal message of peace on earth and goodwill to men. Joy to the World!
(Joy to the World)
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders and His name shall be called Wonderful! Counselor! The Might God! The Everlasting Father! The Prince of Peace!
(Orchestra and choir perform Halleluiah Chorus as the Audience stands, as is tradition)
“May the joy and peace found at the manger be yours in abundance this Christmas season and always.”
(Orchestra and choir perform The Wonderful World Of Christmas, Away in a Manger, and Angels We Have Heard On High.)
Why is this my most cherished piece of Disney Christmas? First of all it is because of the rich history that the Candle light processional has regarding Disney himself. Walt introduced the processional mixing scripture verses and traditional carols in 1958. That means the tradition has been practiced for over 55 years. The second reason is that Christmas isn’t just a commercial or cultural holiday. It’s the celebration of the traditional date of Jesus’s birth, and it should be celebrated as such. There was an excerpt from the older versions that I loved very much:
“He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in still another village where he worked in a carpenter’s shop until he was thirty. Then, for three years he was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn’t go to college. He never visited a big city. He never traveled two-hundred miles from the place where he was born. He did none of the things one usually associates with greatness. He had no credentials, but himself. He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies, and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to the cross between two thieves. While he was dying his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Twenty centuries have come and gone and today he is considered by many to be the central figure of the human race and the leader of mankind’s progress. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned put together have not effected the life of man on this Earth as much as that one, solitary life.”
(The 1926 sermon by Dr James Allan Francis)
So on this Christmas I hope you remember that one solitary life that was begun on a Christmas day so very long ago. I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a joyous and happy new year.