After paring back its seasonal celebrations during the pandemic, Walt Disney World reignited its full slate of offerings at the 2021 EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays, and today we’re closing out the year with a look at some of our favorite live performances that have returned to the park.
The 2021 EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays, which runs through December 30th, brings together festive food, decorations, and cultural traditions from across the globe. Largely absent from the event lineup in 2020, but returning in full force this year, are a variety of live shows and musical performances celebrating not only Christmas, but also Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Japanese New Year, and a wealth of other winter holidays.
Of course, you’ll want to take time to admire the holiday decorations around EPCOT, from the welcoming display at the front entrance to the towering Christmas tree at Port of Entry.
And while you’re walking around World Showcase, you’ll be tempted to try some international treats from the outdoor kitchens.
We’re partial to the chocolate krinkle cookies found near the American Adventure; don’t forget to grab a passport and get it stamped if you want to collect a sweet prize for completing this year’s cookie stroll!
However, as you’re snacking and sightseeing your way around the world, don’t forget to check the show schedules in Disney’s app because you don’t want to miss any of the following live performances.
2021 EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays Candlelight Processional
The traditional Candlelight Processional is back at the 2021 EPCOT International Fest, complete with a full choir (composed of vaccinated Disney employees) led by the Voices of Liberty a cappella group and a symphony orchestra led by an amazingly energetic conductor.
Rotating celebrity narrators (actor Andy Garcia on the night we attended) read the Biblical story of the birth of Jesus between rousing renditions of traditional hymns like “Silent Night” and the “Hallelujah Chorus.”
This is rightfully one of the most popular offerings during EPCOT’s holiday festival, and dining packages that include reserved seating regularly sell out.
However, on weeknights you may be able to slip into the standby line for the first performance of the night up to about 15 minutes before showtime and still secure a seat. If you aren’t able to get into the American Gardens Theater, the show can be heard (and somewhat seen) from standing room areas immediately outside the amphitheater.
Joyful! A Celebration of the Season
One of the best upgrades to the 2021 EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays was the expansion of Joyful! A Celebration of the Season.
This high-energy musical show relocated to a larger stage on the World Showcase waterfront and now features an expanded cast backed by a four-piece live band.
Joyful presents modern arrangements of classic gospel melodies, along with a musical tribute to Kwanzaa (which will expand on December 26).
Enjoy a full front-row performance of Joyful with this video:
World Showcase Holiday Storytellers
The holiday storytellers that tell traditional tales around World Showcase were sorely missed last year, so we’re happy to report that these talented performers have returned. Better still, their outdoor stages have been spruced up, with socially distanced spaces for them to stand and new signage explaining the cultures they represent.
Several of the World Showcase pavilions present their own particular takes on Santa Claus. For example, in Norway the mischievous Barn Santa makes an appearance.
In Italy, guests can encounter the friendly witch La Befana, who visits sleeping children on the Eve of the Epiphany.
Other countries share their non-Christian traditions, such as the comical Daruma doll vendor, who teaches visitors about the Japanese customs of the New Year.
Even though this year’s holiday has already passed, we were especially happy to see that the Hanukkah storyteller is still on EPCOT’s schedule.
This year, the show is located between Morocco and France near the L’Chaim food booth.
The storyteller now has a huge new menorah and a brand-new script that features some favorite Hebrew songs.
Celebrate the Festival of Lights by watching this video of the full Hanukkah Storyteller show at EPCOT:
Living With the Land 2021 Holiday Lights
An educational agricultural boat tour might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of holiday live entertainment. But the light show that The Land pavilion’s greenhouse puts on during the holiday season is certainly entertainment, and the stars of this attraction are undoubtedly alive!
Each year, Living with the Land dresses up its futuristic farming displays with dazzling lights, and for 2021 they’ve definitely outdone themselves.
Living with the Land is one of our favorite EPCOT attractions at any time of year, but it’s especially unmissable during the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays. Be sure to ride after sunset to enjoy the full effect!
Hop aboard a boat with the Unofficial Guide and enjoy this cruise through the Living with the Land 2021 holiday light display:
Harmonious and Beacon of Magic
Finally, although it isn’t exclusive to the holiday festival, if you haven’t already experienced EPCOT’s new nighttime fireworks spectacular, this season is the perfect time. You can preview the show with this complete video:
And as you head for the exit, be sure to pause and enjoy the Beacon of Magic light display on Spaceship Earth, which has been updated with a colorful new sequence for the holiday season.
What’s your favorite thing at the 2021 EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays? Let us know in the comments below!
For all there is to see and do at Walt Disney World, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, or to plan your family’s trip to Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.