Very soon, Candlelight Processional Dining Packages at Epcot will be available to book for the 2013 holiday season. For seasoned Disney travelers, this is a big day: they know that a dining package is the best (and sometimes only) way to get a seat for this storied Walt Disney World event.
But for those who haven’t visited Walt Disney World during the holidays — a time period that runs from Thanksgiving until New Year’s — might not get what all the fuss about. So what is Candlelight Processional, and why should you book a package just to get a seat for it?
The tradition of carolers at Disneyland goes back to the very first Christmas at the park, in 1955, when the Dickens Carolers from the University of Southern California would perform throughout the park. Eventually, the caroling and the local school bands that performed during the holidays, together with new holiday parades that were added, were transformed into one massed choir group. They performed in Town Square. The celebrity narrator, who tells the Christmas story in between traditional Christmas carols, dates back to 1961. Actors such as Dick Van Dyke, Cary Grant, Rock Hudson, and Charlton Heston all narrated the Candlelight Processional.
The east coast version of Candlelight was moved to Epcot in 1993 to accommodate more spectators. Now Candlelight Processional, with its celebrity narrator, singing by the Voices of Liberty and by a choir of Cast Members from around the resort, is one of the most popular holiday experiences at Walt Disney World, with two shows a night throughout the season.
The celebrity narrators vary from week to week. Our favorite narrator has always been Neil Patrick Harris. He has been doing Candlelight for several years — last year he was there the last few days of November — and he’s always a crowd favorite. Sometimes they take a year off, but John O’Hurley, Marlee Matlin, and Gary Sinise have been coming back year after year — Gary Sinise usually does Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Marlee Matlin, with her interpreter Jack Jason, can be especially fascinating and moving to watch:
The soaring voices of the choir, the sudden hushed silence as the narrator recites the Christmas story: it creates a feeling that can’t be equalled. Like so many Disney-only experiences, the Candlelight Processional makes you feel as if you are part of something collectively amazing, huge, and meaningful. It’s the spirit of the season, and you are sharing it with people who are just as moved by its magic as you are.
And so even with extra space and extra performances, there are still more hopeful spectators than available seats in the America Gardens theatre, which sits in front of the American Adventure Pavilion in the World Showcase. And so guests have two choices: wait all afternoon in a line that stretches halfway back to Future World in hopes of a seat, or booking a dining package that guarantees them a seat.
Although details for 2013 have not been released yet, Dining Packages in previous years have included a lunch or dinner meal with appetizer, entree, dessert, and a non-alcoholic beverage, or a buffet, (but not gratuity) and have been offered at World Showcase restaurants around the Lagoon, from the Biergarten in Germany to Teppan Edo in Japan, as well as Coral Reef in The Seas.
If you’re visiting Walt Disney World during the holidays, the Candlelight Processional Dining Package should absolutely be on your list of Advance Dining Reservations. It is often the only way to get a seat for this amazing Disney park tradition, and it will become one of your family traditions for every trip to come! Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll help you make this new tradition happen!
And you’ll want the CD or MP3 collection to listen to it every Christmas that you spend at home. The official recording features Phylicia Rashad as narrator and it… is… beautiful! We used to listen to it every day at Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square and even in July, it makes you feel the Christmas spirit.
Thanks to MousePlanet.com’s “The History of Two Disney Christmas Traditions” for research on this post!