A New Holiday Festival Debuts at Epcot

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Today, Liliane Opsomer, coauthor of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids, reports on the new International Festival of the Holidays and how the Yuletide season is celebrated at Epcot.

Christmas at Epcot is one of the best experiences of the year and perfect for visiting the park with children. Many World Showcase countries host storytellers who delight guests with tales of their respective countries. Upon arriving at the park, pick up a Times Guide and plan to visit each and every one of the pavilions.

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Meet Father Christmas in the United Kingdom, Père Noël in France, and the mischievous Christmas Elf Julenissen in Norway. This year, the storytelling takes place fittingly next to Anna and Elsa’s Royal Sommerhus and includes lots of interaction for children.

Did you know that in Italy it is La Befana, the good witch, who brings gifts to children on Epiphany? You must visit with her—her tale is delightful.

At the German pavilion, the popular Helga no longer talks about the origins of the first Christmas tree, the Advent calendar, and how the nutcracker became a staple in homes worldwide. Her tale has been replaced with performances by Margret Almer and the Bavarian Band.

This year, the American Pavilion is missing the Chanukah and Kwanzaa storytellers. At the Moroccan pavilion, the tales of Muslim festivals throughout the year have been replaced with Moroccan music and belly dancers. Personally, I miss the storytellers, as I feel that they played an important role in conveying the cultures of the World Showcase nations.

At the Mexico pavilion, guests are in for a fiesta with mariachi players and dancers.

In addition to excellent music and dance, there is storytelling with lots of guest interaction. I enjoyed this presentation the most.

At the end of the show, all participants receive candy—a big hit with the little tykes.

At the Canada pavilion, the Holiday Voyageurs explore seasonal traditions with music. The China pavilion has the Lion Dancers perform beginning November 24th. Over at the Japanese pavilion, listen to the Daruma storyteller.

Don’t miss the Dickens Christmas Carols by the Voices of Liberty at the American pavilion. Their professional performance is moving and a most appropriate show for the season.

Santa and Mrs. Claus hold court at the American Pavilion, and many families take this opportunity to have their Christmas card picture taken.

New this year is the International Festival of the Holidays. A total of 15 kiosks serve up seasonal food and beverage specialties from several World Showcase nations.

French Canadian Touterie—Yukon Holiday Kitchen, Canada

Beef Tamale and Three Kings Bread—Feast of the Three Kings, Showcase Plaza

Confit of Chermoula Chicken Drum, Honey Briwat, and Poinsettia cocktail— Tarabaki Holiday Kitchen, Morocco

Also new this year is Chip ’n’ Dale’s Christmas Tree Spree Scavenger Hunt. Armed with a map and stickers, available for $6.99 plus tax at select shops, you travel around World Showcase to find the locations of special Chip ’n’ Dale-themed ornaments. Put the corresponding stickers on your map; once done, visit Disney Traders to exchange your completed map for a set of buttons.

There are musical acts galore at Epcot. Visit Future World’s Fountain Stage to listen to Gospel music by Joyful, or enjoy Hanukkah and Klezmer tunes performed by Mostly Kosher on a stage between Morocco and France.

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Don’t miss the Candlelight Processional (the first performance is scheduled for November 24th), featuring celebrity narrators such as Neil Patrick Harris, Warwick Davis, and Whoopi Goldberg—accompanied by a huge live choir and full orchestra.

End your day with IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, featuring a special holiday overlay.

Want to know what to expect at Disney’s Hollywood Studios during the Christmas season? Find out in Liliane’s next report. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for our newsletter here.

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