Hear the true sounds of Christmas this season at the most magical place on Earth! Walt Disney World brings the holidays to life in one its most outstanding outdoor shows: The Candlelight Processional.
If you’re visiting the parks this season, you won’t want to miss this heavenly experience. Having been on both sides of the stage, I can happily say that the sounds, sights and Christmas spirit are unlike anything you will ever see!
What is the Candlelight Processional?
The Candlelight Processional is a traditional holiday show that is performed yearly at Walt Disney World’s Epcot theme park. This show is a special — and highly popular — segment of Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays, a celebratory event of the season. The captivating procession can be enjoyed starting as early as Thanksgiving Day through December 30th. Running approximately 45 minutes, The Candlelight Processional tells the Biblical story of Christmas through both music and narrative.
Set in the America Gardens Theatre — located near the American pavilion — the Candlelight Processional features some of your favorite classic Christmas songs sang by an incredibly talented massed choir and accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra. You’ll also hear the Biblical story of Christmas between the music as told by a celebrity guest narrator. Some of the songs you can expect to hear at the Candlelight Processional are:
- O Holy Night
- Joy To The World
- Silent Night
- Away In A Manager
- What Child Is This
- Hallelujah Chous
The back of the stage is facing the World Showcase Lagoon, the giant lake circling around the theme park. The audience gets such a spectacular view of the stage and the lake when watching the performance. It’s especially nice when the sun is going down! After the 8:15 p.m. show, you can head over to the water to get a good spot to watch the IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth show that begins shortly following the Processional at 9 p.m. every night.
This show is performed outdoors each evening during the dates mentioned above. You’ll have the chance to view it at any of the three showtimes it is played per night — once at 5 p.m., again at 6:45 p.m. and lastly at 8:15 p.m. The latest show, in my opinion, is the best time to go, as you will get the full effect of the candles lighting up in the night. The showtimes and narrators are always subject to change at any given date or time.
The Candlelight Processional Choir
The Candlelight Processional’s massed choir is unlike anything you’ve seen before. Named after its infamous candle holding singers, the show’s massed choir is ultimately made up of 200 people or so. The choir is split into three different sections. On the outer ends of the stage are singers that have traveled to perform in the show from all different parts of the country. They are usually high school choirs, community church choir members and sometimes international students. Each group has auditioned to be accepted to sing in the massed choir. Every performance is a different set of people, making each experience one-of-a-kind!
These singers are separated by their parts: soprano, alto, tenor and bass. In their golden gowns, the choir members enter the stage from behind the audience, making their way through the aisles. Watching them walk by singing their Christmas hymns is one of the most heartwarming moments of the performance!
I have performed in Candlelight Processional as part of the massed choir. My high school choir had the privilege of getting to sing in the show for three years. As members of the choir, we were able to spend time backstage during rehearsals, meet amazing people from all over the world and were even gifted a free 1-day, 1-park ticket to any of the four theme parks as payment for our voluntary service!
In the center of the stage are the green-gowned singers positioned to look like a Christmas tree. These performers are actually Disney cast members and employees who have auditioned to be a part of the show as well. If you get the chance to work for Disney World, this would be such a fun thing to get to experience.
Finally, located in front of the orchestra conductor are Epcot’s incredibly talented acapella singers, The Voices of Liberty. Normally, you can see the Voices of Liberty perform under the dome in the American Adventure Pavilion during their 15 minute appearances throughout the day. Here, however, you can see them on stage singing Christmas classics in melodies that will give you all the goosebumps! Dressed in 1800s costumes, the Voices of Liberty give the Candlelight Processional an added twinkle.
Below the stage is a 50-piece orchestra directed by a conductor. They are such an integral part of the show, because they give life to the music and really help in accompanying all of the voices on stage.
Imagine hearing the tale of Christmas told by one of your favorite celebrities. At Epcot, this can become a reality during the Candlelight Procession! Each night, a guest celebrity gets the opportunity to share the meaningful story of Christmas with the audience. They read the Biblical version aloud from a script, followed with hymns sung by the choir.
Some of the narrators for Epcot’s Candlelight Processional have already been announced! You can very likely expect to see well-known faces at some of the shows, like the following:
- Neil Patrick Harris
- Whoopi Goldberg
- Gary Sinise
- Pat Sajak
- Steven Curtis Chapman
- Edward James Olmos
NPH and Whoopi are reappearing guests, as they have narrated the show a few other times in the past. In my experiences, I’ve had the privilege of getting to see Steven Curtis Chapman, country star Trace Atkins as well as meet actress Abigail Breslin in person. At that time she was so young, but it was so cool having the opportunity to meet a famous person!
The rest of the celebrities are to be determined in the next coming months. Changes in the schedule can be made at any time, so make sure you’re staying up to date on any news regarding the shows and their narrators. You wouldn’t want to wait in line for someone who had to make a cancellation last minute. While I have never seen this happen, I’m sure there have been instances where this has occurred, so it’s better to be on the safe side and stay connected.
How Busy Is it?
If you’re seeing this show for the first time, you will definitely want to be able to get a seat, as the benches fill up very quickly most nights. Keep in mind that if you choose to watch the show without a seat, you will be standing for almost a full hour after an entire day of walking the theme park. I’d say it’s worth it, but if you have small children, they might do better sitting in a stroller or having a seat.
Standing room is available behind the audience, however, there will still be people walking by to get to other areas of the park. This might cause a distraction for you from the show as well as possibly block some of your view of the stage. In this case, I would at least stop to listen for a few minutes, then continue on with your visit.
Depending on what time you’d like to view the show, I’d suggest having it planned out before you spend your day at Epcot. The most popular viewing time is the 5 p.m. show, with guests sometimes lining up as early as three hours before, depending on the narrator. It’s almost always packed with people, so if you want to see the show at that time, I would take advantage of some the perks that Epcot has going on during this season. If you’re not looking to spend extra money for a seat, your best bet for general admission would be to get in line for the latest show at least 30 minutes beforehand. You won’t get a seat right up front since most of those are reserved, but at least you won’t be standing and you’ll still get a pretty good view of the stage.
The Candlelight Processional is included in your park admission to Epcot. There is no additional cost to see the show, but if you want to skip the crowds and have a guaranteed seat, Epcot does offer dining packages that gives you that advantage. Sometimes, this is the only way to get a seat, as it depends on the narrator, day of the week and other events going on. I highly suggest taking advantage of this if you haven’t seen the show yet and since you get a lunch or dinner meal — or even breakfast — included as well, it is actually worth it.
The additional prices for the dining packages vary by restaurant. They are pretty expensive, but can worth it if you want to get the most out of your holiday vacation. Lunches are typically in the $65 range per adult, while dinners can cost up to around $85. Children’s tickets be anywhere from around $17 to $35, but are always subject to change. Tax and gratuity are not included in these prices.
- Chefs de France
- Garden Grill Restaurant
- Rose & Crown Dining Room
- San Angel Inn Restaurant
- Tokyo Dining
- Tuuto Ialia Risorant
Currently, only the Ale & Compass, the Garden Grill and Trattoria al Forno are offering breakfast dining packages.
Tickets are available for purchase now. If you want to get a guaranteed seat to the show, you’ll want to do this soon. In order to make a reservation, you will need to call (417) WDW-FEST, where you can book your date and restaurant of choice. During your dining experience, you will be given your seating vouchers for the Candlelight Processional, which guarantees you a seat to the show. Be sure to get into the ticket holders line and not the general admission line when waiting to get in.
The order of the line is first-come, first-serve, so while you may not get a seat up front, you will have a seat no matter what. If you want to be closer up, I’d suggest getting there at least 15 minutes before the showtime.
Other Things to Know
While I recommend this show for all ages, the only downside to the Candlelight Procession is that it can get really loud and very bright! Having sung in the show, I can honestly say that the lights are a bit obnoxious. This is part of the experience, but if you or someone you know has a sensitivity to one of these, it might be better to get a seat farther back from the stage. This might also be something parents will want to know ahead of time as well.
The America Gardens Theatre is fully wheelchair and electric conveyance vehicle accessible. Disney is really great about making accommodations, so if this pertains to you, you will be glad to know that there is support. You can learn more about Disney’s mobile disabilities helpful services on their website or contact the Disabilities Services department by calling (407) 560-2547.
The Candlelight Processional is a spiritual gift that brings people from all over together during the holiday season. It’s a magical, uplifting show that I hold dear in my heart. From children to mothers, to grandfather alike, this procession is great for all ages. If you can plan accordingly and take advantage of some of these tips, you can really enjoy your Candlelight experience. You’ll be able to share this memory with your loved-ones and it can make for an unforgettable Walt Disney World Christmas.