The Magic Kingdom is decorated to the max at Christmas and snow falling on Main Street U.S.A. is as magical as it gets but my favorite park to visit during this time of the year is Epcot. Holidays from around the world are on display at World Showcase and strolling from land to land, I enjoy listening to the storytellers while taking in the sounds and the smells of the season. If you haven’t done so this is a perfect time to introduce young children to the park.
In each land the holiday traditions of the respective country are explained. Helga at the German pavilion welcomes visitors throughout the afternoon telling the origins of the first Christmas tree, the advent calendar and how the nutcracker became a staple in homes worldwide. She is funny and witty and once done with her tale a nutcracker joins guests for a great picture opportunity.
In Italy la Befana, the good witch who brings gifts to children on Epiphany, has me spellbound every time I visit. She is my favorite storyteller. At the Canadian pavilion, members of the Off Kilter band rebranded as Holiday Voyageurs convey the country’s musical holiday customs at 12:40, 1:40, 2:40, 3:40, 4:40 and 6:00pm.
In Norway, meet the Christmas elf Julenissen, who represents simplicity and peace, and in Mexico, los Tres Reyes Magos, the three sage kings, make their appearances. Their performance will put you into the holiday spirit guaranteed!
At the American Adventure pavilion Santa and Mrs. Claus are on hand for a meet and greet. Over the years I have seen the holiday presentations at the American Pavilion develop and expand and I love the interactive Kwanzaa and Hanukkah storytelling and nothing is more moving than the wonderful concerts given by the Voices of Liberty. If you are looking for a perfect holiday gift consider one of the personalized children’s books based on heritage and world culture at the Heritage Manor Gifts shop inside The American Adventure pavilion. Right in time for the Holidays, author & founder Deanna Novak released her newest book “Sleigh Ride Around the World”.
You can meet Santa and Mrs. Claus through December 24 at 1:30, 3:30, 5:30 and 7:30pm. The story of Hanukkah is told at 11:30am, 12:15, 1:15, 1:45, 2:45, 3:15, 4:15 and 4:45pm. The story of Kwanzaa is conveyed at 11:15, 11:45am and at 12:30, 1:00, 2:00, 2:30, 3:30 and 4:00pm. The Voices of Liberty Dickens Carolers perform at 11:45am, 12:30, 1:15, 2:00, 2:45, 3:30 and 4:15pm.
The Père Noël greets guests in France and Taarji explains the feast of Ramadan at the Moroccan Pavilion. In Japan, the Daruma Seller talks about how New Year is celebrate in Japan. Did you know that the Daruma dolls are symbols of the New Year and are said to bring good luck? Visit China and listen to the funny stories of the Monkey King.
On Fountain Stage with the iconic Epcot Spaceship Earth in the background, Joyful! – A Gospel Celebration of the Season is performed daily at 1:15, 2:25, 3:25 and 4:25 p.m.
Don’t miss the Candlelight Processional, featuring a celebrity narrator accompanied by a huge live choir and a full orchestra. The show takes place three times a day (5:00 p.m., 6:45 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.) at the America Gardens Theatre and is included with regular admission. Special ?lunch and dinner packages are available for an?additional charge and include preferred seating ?for the processional and access to a preferred viewing area for IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth (call 407-WDW-DINE ?for reservations). If you don’t want to spring for one of the packages, I recommend lining? up at least 60 minutes prior to the show of?your choice.
Guests with preferred seating are well advised not to come at the last minute either and instead should arrive at the reserved seating entrance 30 minutes before the beginning of the show. Seats within this section are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are opened to general admission 15 minutes before the beginning of the show. During my visit James Denton of Desperate Housewives fame read the story of the Night before Christmas.
At nightfall, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth is enhanced for the Holidays with an additional special Peace on Earth holiday ending. The show is performed at 9:30pm through December 25 and at 10:00pm through December 26-30.
Last but certainly not least what would all this holiday cheer be without scrumptious food? This year each country is serving specialty food and drinks. From pecan marble bark in Canada till hot-spiced wine and Christmas Stollen (holiday fruitcake) in Germany a plethora of holiday treats is served up throughout World Show Case. The chocolate Christmas log and the gingerbread ice cream served at the France pavilion where among my favorite closely followed by the Sweet Tamales at the Mexico pavilion.
Liliane Opsomer is the coauthor of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids and a photographer to The Color Companion: The Unofficial Guide.
She is passionate about travel, Disney, fairies, hobbits and all things magical. Some of her favorite destinations are Orlando, Anaheim, Middle Earth, Belgium, Sydney, Dresden, Patagonia and Hawaii. Liliane lives in Birmingham, Alabama and visits the parks several times a year.