Epcot International Festival of the Holidays
Beginning November 26 and ending December 30, 2021, the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays is one of the shorter festivals at Walt Disney World. But it sure is packed with a lot to do while it’s running!
Guests can easily spend three or more days at Epcot and find new things to try each day. As you arrive at the park, be sure to pick up one of the special Festival Passports. It will give all the information needed to see what is offered and where to find things.
Let’s begin with a personal favorite, the Holiday Storytellers. These international storytellers share winter traditions from their native countries and (in a few cases) religions. Different traditions are recounted, usually with an emphasis on entertaining performances. As you walk around World Showcase, you can see the storytellers perform. There are multiple shows daily; check with a Cast Member or look on your My Disney Experience App for the times.
As an FYI, not every country has a storyteller. For example, Canada has a band called The Holiday Voyageurs, who play songs of the season in both English and French. They play seven days a week, multiple shows per day.
The USA has Santa Claus, who will (from a distance) interact with guests, especially the younger Mouseketeers. As with most everything at Walt Disney World, showtimes can vary, so be sure you check on the day you’re visiting. If you plan things out and arrive early and stay long enough, you can fit all of the storytellers as well as Santa and the Voyageurs into one day. I would recommend splitting into at least two days, but one day is possible.
The food booths circling World Showcase, known as “Holiday Kitchens” during this festival, can easily slow you down. While there are not as many as there are during the Food and Wine Festival, there are still quite a few tempting treats for guests to enjoy.
Most of the booths are connected to a country, but some are freestanding, such as the Hanukkah booth between Morocco and France. As an FYI, the Hanukkah booth is also the only freestanding booth with a Storyteller.
Look for a number of Kitchens on the promenade as you enter World Showcase from Future World. There are also food booths in Canada, France, Morocco, Japan, USA, Italy, Germany, China, and Mexico. Additionally, there is a kitchen near Test Track that specializes in donuts. Most kitchens offer small plates of food, snacks, and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
As guests make their way around World Showcase, they can participate in a “Cookie Stroll.” The festival passport I mentioned earlier has a page with five different cookies listed.
There is a place in the passport that gets stamped each time you purchase one of the cookies mentioned in the booklet. Buy five cookies, and then bring the stamped booklet to the Holiday Sweets and Treats kiosk for a free cookie. You do NOT have to complete this in one day. If you plan to visit more than once during the festival, you can continue to add stamps to your passport. It must be turned in for your free treat by December 30, 2021. Cookies included are Gingerbread, Snicker Doodles, Black & White Cookies, Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, and Linzer, all located at different Holiday Kitchens. You do NOT have to get each and every variety listed; as long as your passport has five stamps, you will get your free cookie.
As with other recent festivals, there is a scavenger hunt available at this one, called “Olaf’s Holiday Tradition Expedition.”
Guests search around World Showcase for things Olaf has misplaced. Maps for this can be purchased at a number of locations throughout Epcot and are $9.99. There are stickers to place on the map when you have found a “lost” item; when you have completed your hunt, return the map for a surprise gift! (If you don’t complete it, you will still qualify for the gift). As with the cookies, guests do not have to finish this in one day, but it must be completed and turned in by December 30 this year.
Each evening at Epcot’s America Gardens Theatre, the Candlelight Processional is performed. A celebrity narrator tells the story of Christmas, backed by: a large choir, The Voices of Liberty; a 60 piece orchestra; and herald trumpets. Some of the songs included are O Come All Ye Faithful, O Holy Night, What Child is This, and Silent Night. There are a number of others included as well.
A few more things worth mentioning:
- Joyful, a singing group that performs Gospel as well as Rhythm and blues, celebrates Christmas and Kwanzaa multiple times daily on the plaza between Canada and Mexico.
- If you are not a meat-eater, there are a number of plant-based options in the Holiday Kitchens.
- There are plenty of merchandise booths to peruse as you walk around the World Showcase.
- Although Father Christmas is wonderful in the UK, equally wonderful is a piano player who appears on the gazebo in the courtyard in the back of the UK. She does songs of the season and plays 30 minute shows. Not only is she a fabulous singer and pianist, but she also interacts so well with the audience and clearly loves what she is doing.
- The boat ride in the Living with the Land Pavilion is decorated and lights up at night as you ride through.
- There is one huge tree as you go from Future World to World Showcase, highlighting all the countries in Epcot with special ornaments.
- There is a very nice, fairly large tree in front of the USA pavilion.
- There are other decorations and smaller trees throughout Epcot.
For many years this festival was known as the Festival of the Holidays. Except for the name, this festival is basically the same. If you have never experienced it, I recommend giving it a try. It’s a great time to be at Epcot. The decorations are beautiful; the Cast Members do a wonderful job in their various roles; there’s plenty of food selections and lots of great music.