Formerly known as “Holidays Around the World,” the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays has been Epcot’s yearly holiday celebration since November of 1996.
It has seen a number of changes over the years, most notably the addition of food booths placed around World Showcase, which sell a variety of cuisines.
As you enter Epcot, remember to pick up a Passport for the Festival, it’s got a lot of very helpful information. But if you forget never fear, there are more inside the park, especially in the World Showcase area.
The Festival is known for its storytellers and musicians. As guests make their way around the World Showcase, each pavilion has performers who share their country’s holiday traditions and/or music. The performances are multiple times per day, starting in the early afternoon. Check the Epcot times guide to be sure you don’t miss the shows that are important to you. It’s tough to see all of them in one day.
A favorite of many guests, there are three shows each evening of the “Candlelight Processional.” This show stars superb choirs who sing songs of the season, accompanied by a live 50 piece orchestra. Additionally, each evening features a celebrity guest narrating the story of Christmas. Showtimes are 5:00, 6:45, and 8:00 p.m.; each performance is 40 minutes long. Some narrators are very hard to get seats for, even if you wait for hours in the standby line. There are no fast passes for this experience. However, to ensure a seat, Candlelight Processional Dining Packages are available. Eat at one of the participating restaurants, and you will be guaranteed a seat at that night’s performance. However, even though your seat is promised with the dinner package, specific seats are not assigned. So, for the VERY popular narrators (Neil Patrick Harris comes to mind), you will still want to line up early to get a seat close to the stage, even with the dinner package!
As mentioned earlier there is a standby line, and for the less popular narrators you won’t need the dinner package, the standby line will work just fine (but if you want to be close to the stage you might want to consider the dinner package even for the less well-known narrators). It IS possible to see even the most popular narrators with little to no wait if you are willing to stand outside the theater, in front of the American Adventure. Your view won’t be great, but you will hear everything just fine. If you happen to have binoculars, all the better, but it isn’t a must.
The cost of the Candlelight Packages vary according to the place you choose to eat and whether you have Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner. Prices in 2019 for adults vary from $40 to $57.50, while kid prices start at $16.99 and go up to $24. This does not include tax.
Restaurants participating in the 2019 Candlelight Processional Package:
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner:
- Ale and Compass (Yacht Club Resort)
- The Garden Grill Restaurant (The Land, Future World at Epcot)
- Trattoria Al Forno (Near the Boardwalk Resort)
Lunch and dinner:
- Biergarten Restaurant (Germany, World Showcase, Epcot)
- Chefs de France (France, World Showcase, Epcot )
- Coral Reef Restaurant (Next to Nemo, Future World, Epcot)
- Nine Dragons Restaurant (China, World Showcase, Epcot )
- Restaurant Marrakesh and Spice Road Table (Morocco, World Showcase, Epcot )
- Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room (United Kingdom, World Showcase, Epcot
- San Angel Inn (Mexico, World Showcase, Epcot )
- Teppan Edo and Tokyo Dining (Japan, World Showcase, Epcot)
- Tutto Italia Ristorante & Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria (Italy, World Showcase, Epcot)
- La Hacienda de San Angel (Mexico, World Showcase, Epcot)
A fun thing for young and old alike is to do Chip and Dale’s Christmas Tree Spree. If you have been to any of the other Epcot Festivals with Scavenger hunts, this is the same idea but with a Holiday theme. For $6.99 you can purchase a card from 3 spots in Epcot: Disney Traders (World Showcase Plaza), Gateway Gifts (Next to Spaceship Earth in Future World), or World Traveler at International Gateway. Your job is to help Chip and Dale find ornaments for their tree. As you go along World Showcase, you search for the ornaments in each of the 11 World Showcase Pavilions. You are supplied with stickers to mark off each time you locate an ornament. Once finished, you return to any of the stores that sell the cards, and you will get a holiday “reward.”‘ By the way, if you cannot find an ornament, most cast members will be happy to give you a hint. And if for some reason you just cannot locate one, never fear, you will still get your prize when you hand in your card.
So let’s talk about eating at the International Festival of the Holidays. It seems that Disney has turned all of their special Epcot Events into a small version of “The Food and Wine Festival,” and just as you can during then, you can Eat Around the World during the Festival of the Holidays. The food booths open when World Showcase opens, usually 11 a.m. They will close at 8 p.m., earlier than the park does. Prices vary, as do portion sizes. If you are going to partake, I highly suggest you take a look at the Festival Passport so you can plan to try the things that interest you most. The food booths for 2019 include the following:
- Feast of the Three Kings Holiday Kitchen
- L’Chaim (Near Morocco) Holiday Kitchen
- Sapphire (Morocco) Holiday Kitchen
- Le Marché De Noël (France) Holiday Kitchen
- Bavaria (Germany) Holiday Kitchen
- Shanghai (China) Holiday Kitchen
- Tuscany (Italy) Holiday Kitchen
- Yukon (Canada) Holiday Kitchen
- American Holiday Kitchen
- Holiday Sweets & Treats Kitchen
- Shi Wasu (Japan) Holiday Kitchen
- Las Posadas (Mexico) Holiday Kitchen
For many guests, the storytellers and musicians from the various countries are a highlight of their visit during the International Festival of the Holidays.
Here is a little bit about what you can enjoy in each of the countries around the World Showcase Lagoon (for exact times for each, consult the Epcot Times Guide):
- Mexico: Las Posadas Celebration – dancers, piñatas and the music of Mariachi Cobre
- Norway: A Mischievous Magical Barn Santa – Barn Santa visits Sigrid, a Christmas storyteller
- China: Chinese Lion Dancer – A show that is said to bring good luck and happiness to those who watch.
- Germany: Chilli Da Mur – German vocal group who perform folk and popular tunes
- Italy: La Befana – A “good witch” who tells the story of trying to find the star to lead her to baby Jesus
- The American Adventure: Santa and Mrs. Claus (who will pose for pictures with guests in a very elaborate setting). Additionally, for those who are fans of the a cappella group in America, The Voices of Liberty (known as the “Dickens Carolers” during the holidays), stop by and listen to them perform tunes of the season
- Japan: Daruma – Storyteller shares the tale of the Daruma doll and other Japanese customs
- Morocco: Festivity in Morocco – Moroccan music
- Between France & Morocco: Hanukkah Storyteller
- France: Père Noël: The French version of Santa Claus tells a story
- United Kingdom: Father Christmas – England’s Santa Claus, Father Christmas is a VERY jolly storyteller. The kids will love this one
- Canada: Canadian Holiday Voyageurs – Traditional Christmas songs ( i.e., Joy to the World, The Little Drummer Boy), combined with French versions of some familiar tunes (i.e., Jingle Bells), as well as French holiday songs unique to Canada
Let’s not leave out the other fun things unique to Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays.
First, Joyful is a band who plays at Showcase Plaza (entrance to World Showcase). Times can vary, so, as always, check the Times Guide for performance times. This group of very talented musicians celebrate Kwanzaa and Christmas with Gospel and R&B.
Lastly, Living with The Land: Merry and Bright Nights are new for 2019. This can only be fully experienced in the evening, as it is too bright in the daytime to enjoy the lights. As your boat rides through the Living with the Land attraction, you will spot many lights and decorations along the way. It is included with admission; you just have to ride the attraction to enjoy the special holiday additions.
I find this Festival a lot of fun; there is something for all ages to enjoy. In addition to all that was mentioned in this blog, there is a huge and beautiful tree between Future World and World Showcase. And there are many more smaller trees throughout the park, as well as decorations galore. Holiday music plays in the background everywhere you go.
If you have never been to Epcot during the holidays, I hope you give it a try someday. It’s an unforgettable experience!