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By Carol Garcia
Joyeux Noël. Frohe Weihnachten. Natale allegro. Feliz Navidad.
What do these phrases have in common (other than the fact that I probably can’t pronounce any of them correctly)? They are all ways to say Merry Christmas, and they can all be heard throughout Epcot in December.
Sure, the Magic Kingdom has Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and the resorts are all decked out in their holiday finery, but Epcot really knows how to celebrate, too!
All throughout the World Showcase, each country presents its traditions of the season. There are “Santa” figures at various times throughout the day telling stories. Even those countries that don’t traditionally celebrate Christmas get into the spirit with native characters telling traditional stories from the country. Each country offers the highlights of its own big celebrations held through the year.
Although specifics of this year’s presenters aren’t available yet, this is a sample of what as offered in previous years:
Mexico – The classic Mexican celebration of Posada is created through the 3 Kings. They share the customs that begin nine days prior to Christmas and continue through the month of January.
Norway – The storyteller in Norway is Sirgrid, a farm girl who tells of the accounts of Julenissen, the Christmas Gnome. Julenissen’s antics are sure to delight.
||China – Of course the biggest celebration here is the Chinese New Year. The Monkey King tells the tale and the New Year’s Dragon is a highlight of the Dragon Legend Acrobats’ presentation.
|Germany – So many Christmas traditions originated here: the Christmas tree, the Nutcracker and the Christmas Pickle. Don’t know what a Christmas Pickle is, or why you hang it on the tree? The storyteller will tell you!
||Italy – La Befana is the Christmas figure of Italy. This good witch comes down the chimney and leaves treats for the children. In Italy, the Epiphany the big celebration and La Befana will explain why.
America – It shouldn’t surprise you that holiday traditions abound here. And they are as diverse as the people themselves.
Santa The big cheese himself, er, at least the jolly old elf, is here along with Mrs. Claus to pose for pictures and hear wishes.
Kwanzaa This unique holiday celebrates the harvest and African heritage. If you’ve never heard the story of Kwanzaa and why it was created, stop by and listen to the story teller. The seven principles of Kwanzaa and the celebrations that go with them are something we all might appreciate.
Hanukkah The story of the miracle of the lamp and Maccabees is told by the storyteller here. Explore the Jewish traditions surrounding Hanukkah.
Japan – Another New Year celebration is here. Learn about how the new year really means a new start and including family and friends. The story of the Daruma doll is also explored.
Morocco – The entire pavilion is subtly decorated in the colors of Ramadan. Taarji tells the story of how his drum plays in the traditional rhythms of the festival season.
France – Pere Noel is here to tell the story of Babette and her special Christmas wishes. You can even share a few ideas of your own. And don’t forget to sample the foods of the Christmas Eve feast.
United Kingdom – What traditions are native to the UK? Well boughs of holly and Christmas cards, to name a few. Father Christmas is here to guide us through the traditions.
Canada – The seasonal traditions here are as big and diverse as the country itself. Nowell the lumberjack guides us through the native and French influence on the holiday. The Canadian Santa Claus might even make an appearance.
After dark, Epcot really pulls out the holiday finery. At dusk, there is a big celebration to light the Christmas tree, located at the entrance to World Showcase. Mickey and his friends spread goodwill with a music and fun that culminates in the lighting of the giant Christmas tree.
Then the Lights of Winter take over. This amazing series of white arches cross the entire walkway between Future World and World Showcase. The arches are covered with colored lights that are synchronized to holiday music. As a bonus, sometimes the fountain gets into the act, too. Spend some time just watching this amazing display that literally surrounds guests with light and sound.
For a touching Christmas experience, the Candlelight Processional is a must-see for guests. This is the telling of the Christmas story, done in a big way. There is a massed choir and 50 piece orchestra performing traditional Christmas music. A celebrity narrator reads the story of the Nativity. This moving event is held three times nightly and amazingly is included with park admission. Guests line up early for this event, so be aware that you have a few choices. First, you can wait in line for a seat. Second, the show can be seen from outside of the American Gardens Theater, so if you aren’t sure it is for you or you don’t think your toddler will sit through a performance but you still want to catch the show, you can sit outside of the theater. Although the views may not be the same, the show can still be heard. The third choice is the Candlelight Processional Dinner Package. This is a three tiered package. For one price, guests receive dinner and a voucher to the reserved section of the Theater. Although the section of the theater reserved for packages guests isn’t in the first row, you will be guaranteed a spot without the hours of standing in line.
To top off the night, Epcot offers a special holiday presentation of Illuminations. The traditional show is still there, with a holiday finale that is even more breath taking that Illuminations itself (yes, that is possible). Epcot offers this special holiday presentation of Illuminations at 9:30 p.m., instead of its usual 9:00 p.m. slot.
So when contemplating your December plans, don’t forget to plan lots of time at Epcot. It is full of holiday magic.