by Disney Magic Diva
The holidays are probably my favorite time to visit Walt Disney World Resort. The magic of the season, combined with the magic of the parks, elicits that warm, joyful, hope-filled feeling that, for me, is synonymous with Christmas. And while spending time with your family in the Most Magical Place on Earth is certainly a wonderful way to celebrate the holidays, being in the middle of all the stimulation of Disney may make it easy to lose sight of the reason we celebrate Christmas. After all, most people don’t immediately envision a theme park, even one as inspirational as Walt Disney World Resort, when they think about the story of the First Christmas. That’s why when visiting the parks at Christmastime, I delight in the opportunity to reflect on the more important aspects of Christmas by attending the Candlelight Processional at Epcot.
This stirring performance is a Disney Christmas tradition held at the America Gardens Theater in World Showcase at Epcot. A celebrity narrator reads passages from the Bible which tell the story of the First Christmas. Interspersed with the readings are traditional hymns performed by a mass choir and accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra. Can you say “amazing?”
The Candlelight Processional is held at 5:00, 6:45 and 8:15 each evening in late November and throughout December. (Click here for more information on dates and a list of the celebrity narrators). Entrance is included with your admission to Epcot, and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. It is quite popular, and so long lines tend to form well before each performance.
TIP: If you do not have a dining package (discussed below), I’d recommend arriving at least an hour before performance time to hopefully get a seat. But remember, while you usually are able to get a seat, outside of the dining package it is never guaranteed.
To be guaranteed a seat, you can purchase a Candlelight Processional Dining Package. This is not to be confused with the Disney Dining Plan – the add-on package that essentially pre-pays your meals while at Disney World. The Candlelight Processional Dining Package is essentially a pre-paid lunch or dinner AND a pass for guaranteed seating at a specified Candlelight Processional performance later that day. (This year, in addition to lunch and dinner, there is also a breakfast option at Garden Grill.) The price for the package depends on the restaurant you choose. You can also pay with two table service credits if you are on the Disney Dining Plan.
TIP: If you want the Candlelight Processional Dining Package, you must make a reservation specifically for that package. You cannot make a “regular” dining reservation at the restaurant of your choice, then ask for the special seating passes upon your arrival at the restaurant. Be sure you book the package!
On our last holiday visit, we opted for a dining package. We made reservations for a late lunch at the Rose and Crown, and then a 6:45 performance of the Candlelight Processional. As part of the package, each restaurant has a prix fix menu for you to choose an appetizer, entrée, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage. (Of course if you choose a buffet-style restaurant, you will be able to choose from all the regular buffet selections.) So many scrumptious choices! When you arrive, just confirm with your server that you have the Candlelight Processional Dining Package, and they will walk you through the whole process. At the end of the meal, they will bring you a pass for your guaranteed seating at your specified performance.
Since we were traveling with a preschooler, we thought the guaranteed seating would be a good idea. We were right! We followed our server’s advice and arrived at the Candlelight Processional about 30 minutes before performance time. Even then, the line was quite long! Guests who were not part of the dining package were in a different line, and it was even longer. When seating opens, those with the special dining package pass are admitted into a priority seating area. Guests without the dining package are admitted to the general seating area, and when space there is full, admittance is closed. Minutes before the show begins, if space is still available in the priority area, non-dining package guests will be admitted into that area.
The performance is unforgettable. A hush falls over the crowd, and the mood throughout the show is reflective and yet joyous! It is a marvelous reminder of the reason we celebrate Christmas. The orchestra and choir lend such an idyllic aspect to the stirring words of the narrator. Since the America Gardens Theater is bench seating, there is room for little ones to stand and move about a bit if their attention span gets a little challenged. But with our granddaughter we didn’t really have that problem. The change in pace of readings and music helped hold her attention. And since much of the music is traditional Christmas hymns, she was able to recognize the songs. An especially beautiful part of the show is when the lights are dimmed enough to see the candlelight glow on each choir member’s face. Breathtaking!
I’d encourage anyone who loves the Christmas Story to see the Candlelight Processional. It is a moving and beautiful way to celebrate the holidays at Walt Disney World Resort! Christmas AND Disney….what could be more magical??
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