Rocking Around the World Showcase: Epcot International Festival of the Holidays
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Epcot International Festival of the Holidays takes place from November 24th, 2023, through December 30th, 2023. Guests can find many festivities throughout the park. Take a journey around the World Showcase with me to get to know the different holiday traditions celebrated by the different cultures at the 11 pavilions.
Las Posadas Celebration – Mexico Pavilion
Let’s start in the Mexico Pavilion and join the Las Posadas Celebration. Las Posadas is a nine-day holiday from December 16th to December 24th celebrated in Mexico, Latin America, Guatemala, Honduras, and by Latin Americans in the United States. Las Posadas celebrates Joseph and Mary’s journey from Bethlehem to Nazareth in search of a place for Baby Jesus to be born.
Guests stopping by the Mexico Pavilion will be able to see Mariachi Cobre performers perform a variety of Mexican holiday songs and Folklórico dancers in their vibrant outfits. The dancers share the story of Mary and Joseph searching for a place to stay. The performance is 25 minutes and is held multiple times throughout the day from Sunday through Thursday.
Norwegian Christmas – Norway Pavilion
For our next stop on our travels, let’s swing by the Norway Pavilion for a Norwegian Christmas. In Norway, most Norwegian families get together on Christmas Eve (December 24th) and enjoy a traditional meal, followed by opening presents found under the tree. Sometimes, families will even have Father Christmas stop by for a visit.
Guests visiting the Norway pavilion can find a sign shaped like a giant scroll that lets guests know a little bit about the Christmas Holiday in Norway. Throughout the day, Sigrid, a Norwegian farm girl, will teach guests a Norwegian Christmas carol sung by children and then will tell her tale of her when a mischievous Norwegian Barn Santa visits her. I highly recommend stopping by to enjoy the 15-minute performance for a good chuckle.
Lunar New Year – China Pavilion
Let’s travel to the opposite side of the world to learn about the Lunar New Year at the China Pavilion. Lunar New Year is a massive celebration in China that brings in the year on the Chinese calendar. It is the most important holiday in China and is also celebrated in South Korea, Vietnam, and countries with a significant overseas Chinese population. Lunar New Year is fifteen days long, and the Chinese New Year marks the change between zodiac signs.
Guests can stop by the China Pavilion to watch a Chinese Lion Dancer performance. It is one of my favorite performances to see during the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays! During the Chinese Lion Dance, a narrator tells the story of the lion, how two performers bring the lion to life, and how a red lion brings good fortune and happiness to the Chinese culture.
German Christmas – Germany Pavilion
Did you know Christmas trees originated in Germany? Also, many holiday traditions celebrated in the United States and Canada originated in Germany, such as advent calendars, gingerbread houses, candy canes, and various holiday dishes. Many families in Germany have a traditional little wooden Christmas pyramid carousel in their living room that includes angels and a nativity scene.
Guests can check out the Bavaria Holiday Kitchen Booth in the Germany Pavilion to taste the German flavors of the season, including Pork Schnitzel, Cheese fondue, and Linzer cookies. While guests are enjoying a dish from Germany, they can watch the vocal group Chilli Da Mur performing holiday carols in German. Also, a storyteller named Helga will explain the different holiday traditions, such as the story of the first Christmas tree.
Epiphany Celebration – Italy Pavilion
Epiphany is an Italian holiday that celebrates the visit of the Magi and the baptism of Jesus. It focuses on a Santa-like witch named La Befana who flies on a broomstick and delivers presents. In Italy, children receive gifts on Christmas as well as on January 6th in celebration of the Epiphany. Good children receive gifts such as candies and small toys, whereas naughty children receive a lump of coal.
In the Italy Pavilion, guests can encounter La Befana. She tells her story of how she is a kindhearted witch who visits sleeping young children on the Eve of the Epiphany in January. The story explains how she came to deliver gifts and her small role in the Nativity. The performance is held daily and is 15 minutes.
The American Adventure Pavilion – Voices of Liberty
In the United States of America, families decorate the outside of their houses with lights and other decorations such as inflated Santa Claus, Snowmen, Reindeer, and characters from shows and movies in Christmas outfits. Then, on Christmas Eve, families have a big family dinner, and after, the children hang their stockings by the fireplace and leave out milk and cookies for Santa Claus. When he comes, he goes down the chimney to bring them presents to open on Christmas morning.
The Voices of Liberty is an a cappella group that sings Americana songs inside the hallowed halls of The American Adventure Pavilion. During the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays, the group performs as the Dickens Carolers. The group dresses in their Colonial winter attire and sings original renditions of holiday favorites that honor the spirit of seasons past, present, and future. I find each song the group performs amazing, and you can see how much fun they are having! Each performance lasts 15 minutes throughout the day.
Japanese New Year – Japan Pavilion
The Japanese New Year, also called Shōgatsu, is a public holiday celebrated annually in Japan. It is celebrated January 1–3 (though celebrations sometimes last for the entire week), marking the beginning of a new calendar year each year. One of the traditional customs is the first shrine visit of the New Year. Many people visit a shrine on January 1st, 2nd, or 3rd to pay their respects and wish for a happy and healthy year. 2024 is the year of the Dragon, Tatsu-doshi. It is said the Dragon will bring luck, wealth, and power.
When visiting the Japan Pavilion, a Daruma salesperson will explain the history of the Daruma. They are considered Japanese wishing dolls, which are based on Bodhidharma, who founded Zen Buddhism. The host also explains how the nation traditionally welcomes the new year. The performances last 15 minutes daily.
In Morocco, celebrations can be more intimate than celebrations in other countries. Families will usually head to churches, hotels, and other private venues to have a private holiday dinner and an evening of dancing. On Christmas Eve, families will have a meal with festive decorations on the table and special menus. In Morocco, there are many celebrations throughout the year after the winter holidays.
Guests can stop by Tangierine Café: Flavors of the Medina in the Morocco Pavilion, where they can enjoy tasty dishes and beverages such as grilled kebabs, hard cider, and more. Tangierine Café is open from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm daily.
Hanukkah – between the Morocco Pavilion and the France Pavilion
Guests can stop between the Morocco and France Pavilions to hear a Storyteller reminisce about traveling abroad to explore the diverse music and traditional festivities of Hanukkah around the world. Guest will learn about how Hanukkah lasts eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which occurs at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar. Hanukkah is celebrated by lighting one candle on the menorah each day, reading from the Scripture daily, reciting Psalms, and singing a special hymn. This performance lasts 15 minutes daily.
A French Christmas – France Pavilion
Many families in France do their festivities on Christmas Eve (December 24th). Such festivities include:
- Putting up a Christmas tree.
- Visiting a special church service.
- Eating an elaborate meal.
- Opening gifts.
Other activities families like to take part in include:
- Walking in the park.
- Participating in city life.
- Sharing a meal with family and close friends.
When visiting the France Pavilion, guests can visit with Père Noël, who is the French version of Santa. Père Noël is eager to share a tale about rediscovering the magic of Christmas through a letter from a young child and how she celebrates Christmas Eve with her family. Make sure to stop by Le Marché de Noël Holiday Kitchen for a snack or beverage to enjoy while you watch the performance.
A British Christmas – United Kingdom Pavilion
Christmas in the United Kingdom is all about family. Many families enjoy watching festive films in their new Christmas pajamas; some attend a church service, and some spend the day outside together. An activity that many people in the UK participate in is listening to the Queen’s speech, which King Charles III will give for the second year.
There are a couple of different versions of Santa Claus that guests can see when visiting Epcot. At the United Kingdom Pavilion, guests will meet Father Christmas, who is dressed in a green suit and a wreath of holly on his head. Jolly Father Christmas tells a story of many of the holiday traditions we celebrate today that started in the United Kingdom. Learn about Christmas cards, mistletoe, and the song “Deck the Halls.” Guests can see Father Christmas daily.
Canadian Holidays – Canada Pavilion
Canada has a lot of different and diverse ways of celebrating the season, as many people from around the world have moved to Canada, so the friends and family they make when they get here are introduced to their traditions and sometimes even incorporate them into their traditions. I am Canadian born and raised, and some of the traditions my family celebrates every year include decorating a Christmas tree, doing Christmas baking, having a snowball fight outside, going sledding and then coming inside for hot chocolate, exchanging gifts on Christmas morning (December 25th), having a large breakfast and then watching Christmas movies until dinner.
At the Canada Pavilion, guests can stop by The Mill Stage to listen to performances from Canadian Holiday Voyageurs, who will take guests on a journey across the Great White North by singing holiday songs and explaining holiday customs from the various regions of Canada they come from. The Canadian Holiday Voyageurs are always happy to have the audience join in singing the different songs they perform.
The Odyssey Pavilion – Santa Greeting
To end our holiday journey, let’s stop by The Odyssey Pavilion to get a photo with jolly Santa Claus—also known as St. Nick, Père Noël, and Father Christmas around the world! Guests can meet Santa Clause daily from November 24th, 2023, to December 24th, 2023.
I find it amazing that I can experience other cultures’ holidays and traditions firsthand when visiting Epcot! Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad! God Jul! 圣诞节快乐 Frohe Weihnachten! Buon Natale! メリークリスマスחג מולד שמח Joyeux Noël! My challenge for any guests visiting the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays this year is to stop by one of the Pavilions and learn a little bit about another culture’s holiday festivities. Maybe you will discover a new tradition to add to your celebration! What holiday traditions do you celebrate each December?