There is absolutely nothing like Walt Disney World during the holidays! The decorations, the festive souvenirs available, and that extra bit of magic in the air – it somehow makes The Happiest Place on Earth even happier! One of our Must-Do traditions this time of year is Candlelight Processional. Located in Epcot, it is something you and your family simply won’t want to miss if you’re going to The World in December. You may know a little about it, you may have even seen it, but here are some facts that we think everyone should know:
1. So Many Shows
The Christmas season at Walt Disney World starts early! There are typically just over 30 nights of Candlelight Processional, and at 3 shows each night, that’s nearly 100 opportunities to see this magical event! We love that the 5:00 show is less crowded, the 6:45 show gives you a nice break before heading into some night-time activities, and the 8:15 show is so cool because it is dark by the time the choir enters the theater with their candles burning bright. Whichever show you go with, you are sure to be blown away.
2. Celebrity Narrators
Each year, Disney releases a preliminary list of narrators with updates and additions along the way. There are always some big names. Neil Patrick Harris, for example, loves bringing his family to this tradition and narrates often. It’s adorable to watch him sing along to the entire Hallelujah Chorus from memory! Jody Benson (voice of Ariel and Toy Story’s Barbie), considers it an honor to be chosen each year. Members of our team were lucky enough to run into Chandra Wilson (Dr. Miranda Bailey on Grey’s Anatomy) in the parks the day we saw her narrate. Each narrator that is chosen spends 2 to 4 nights taking the stage and telling the story of Christmas. Narrators are chosen from so many different disciplines… actors, musicians, athletes and more! It is so incredible to hear your favorite stars tell such a moving story, watch them sing along to their favorite carols, and learn about some of their families’ holiday traditions.
The narrator tells the story of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus through Bible verses interspersed with some of your favorite Christmas carols… and maybe some new ones too! Of all the shows at Disney, this is definitely a little more serious than most, and we recommend you consider whether your family will enjoy the serenity of this 40 minute experience or be looking for something else to do 15 minutes in. While it certainly contains religious aspects, it is a beautifully calming and moving performance that is enjoyed by many people of all walks of life and religious backgrounds.
4. Dining Packages
Think of these like the FastPass for this performance! You make a special dining reservation for the day you plan to see the show – this reservation can be for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. At your meal, you are given a timed sticker that grants you entry into the early admission line at the American Gardens Theater that night. Since there are only a limited number given out for each show, you’re sure to get in and settled into the perfect spot! It does cost 2 credits, and your EZ Dis Agent would be happy to talk with you about whether that is the right move for your family, as well as take care of making the reservations for you! Each show does have a standby line, but admission is not guaranteed. For some of the more popular narrators it is recommended you line up 60-90 minutes prior to the show.
5. High School Choirs
Each performance, several high school choirs from around the country are selected to participate. They send in an audition tape and if accepted, they practice the music on their own for weeks before flying or driving to Orlando. They do a final rehearsal the day of the performance, and then take the stage with such poise and professionalism that you would think they did this every night! For the young performers, it is the experience of a lifetime and a memory that they will treasure always! Insider information: The singers in the yellow robes are with the school groups.
6. Cast Choir
If you look at the pictures, there’s more than just yellow robes though! So who’s in the green? Well, any cast member who works anywhere on Disney property is eligible to audition for the Candlelight Choir. It is an intense process, but those lucky enough to be selected don a green robe and climb into their Christmas tree shaped formation each night. Some of them may be Disney performers, but many of them may be the person who checked you in at the front desk or the bus driver that took you to Magic Kingdom yesterday – just everyday Cast Members with a passion for singing and an extra dose of holiday spirit! If you look really closely, you’ll also notice just a few singers in red, holding microphones. Those are the Voices of Liberty. They usually perform in the America pavilion of Epcot, but lend their talents to this show each night during the holiday season.
7. The Orchestra
Okay, so there are LOTS of singers! Got it. But they’re not performing a capella. In fact, their sound is supported by a 50 piece orchestra that is just outstanding! Their music also opens and closes the performance, and they can be heard playing under much of the narration to help set the right mood. When you go, be sure to check out the horn players on the side. Their precision and attention to detail is just incredible – you’ll see what we mean!
Candlelight Processional is the only show on all of Disney property that is 100% interpreted. That means that each of the nearly 100 shows has an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter standing on the front right corner of the stage in all black, translating the show for all to enjoy. This may not be something you think you need, but you’ll be grateful you knew to look for it! The ASL is scripted out just like a regular show, and the energy and passion that these interpreters bring is amazing! Take a minute to peek over at them during a song or two – it is such a beautiful art and Disney’s interpreters are second to none. It is great lesson to share with your children. If you loved what they did, when it is time for the bows, you can tell them by shaking your hands in the air – that’s how you applaud in ASL!
Check out our vlog for Candlelight Processional, you will see the talented and passionate Jodi Benson narrating, the choir and orchestra making beautiful music, and one of our favorite members of the ASL team, Angela, interpreting!
Candlelight Processional is just one of MANY wonderful traditions at Walt Disney World during the holiday season, but it sure is one of our favorites! Have you seen it? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!