Our family has spent Christmas at Disney World for many years. It is our favorite place to spend the holidays. We love all the decorations, music, and holiday events throughout the World. Although we are sad that our beloved Osborne Light show is gone, there are still some wonderful things to do. Because our family is small, we enjoy being able to go out of town to celebrate Christmas at the most magical place on Earth. When we lived in Chicago, we would exchange gifts and have our big Christmas dinner a few days early before escaping the cold weather and heading down to Orlando. Now that we live only a couple hours from Orlando, it is easier than ever for us to hop in the car and celebrate Christmas at Disney World.
Of course there is nowhere more magical then the Magic Kingdom. (Or more crowded.) The decorations here are so beautiful and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is probably the most fun event. It is also a great way to enjoy the park with less of the crowds.
At EPCOT there is the Holidays Around the World (which has basically become Food & Wine Festival Part 2). This is a fun way to learn about holiday traditions in other countries around the World Showcase. You can also try different seasonal food and drink favorites. The Candlelight Processional is a beautiful retelling of the story of Christmas with celebrity narrators and a 50-piece orchestra. You also can’t miss Illuminations which has an added holiday presentation that is breathtaking.
While we are very disappointed that the Osborne Lights are no longer at Hollywood Studios, they have sort of made up for it with the awesome decorations and even more awesome show, Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! We still really miss the magical feeling of the Osborne Lights.
Animal Kingdom doesn’t have any specific holiday celebrations, but we love the decorations! Also check out the decorations at Animal Kingdom Lodge!
Now that pretty much everything is open at Disney Springs (and we love it! Check out our review of the Town Center) they have really brought the Christmas magic. Obviously there are lots of fun decorations. The best thing is the Tree Trail which has a bunch of themed Christmas trees, and there is fake snow! You can also meet Santa, sing Christmas carols, and watch the new Starbright Holidays Show featuring over 300 drones. Oh this is also where you can SHOP! And there is even stuff on sale! Our new favorite store is definitely Uniqlo.
What are your holiday traditions? Have you ever spent Christmas at Disney World? We would love to hear about it in the comments!
Holiday Traditions around the World: Christmas in Norway
Land of the Midnight Sun is the perfect backdrop for the Christmas season! Luciadagen or St. Lucia Day starts the Christmas season in Norway on December 13th. Sicilian martyred Saint Lucia was visited by an angel and vowed to devote her life to Christianity. Lucia is honored as a day of light at the darkest time of the year. Children form a procession dressed in white with a crown of lighted evergreens on their heads while singing the traditional St. Lucia song. Lussekatter are the traditional St. Lucia Day treats handed out during the processional. Lussekatter is translated to “Lucia cats” and they are sweet buns decorated with raisins baked into a winding tail design.
Christmas trees play a big part in the Norwegian holiday season. Spruce or pine trees are sparsely decorated to showcase their natural beauty. Clear white lights have replaced candles and the ornaments are Julekurver which are small paper baskets in the shape of a heart. The most famous custom is the traditional Norwegian Christmas tree that Norway gifts to the United Kingdom each year as a thank you for the help during World War II. The tree is proudly displayed in Trafalgar Square in the heart of London.
Nothing says Christmas like a performance of The Nutcracker ballet! The Nutcracker ballet is adapted from The Nutcracker and The Queen of Mice by ETA Hoffman. The basic story is of a young German girl who dreams of a Nutcracker Prince and a fierce battle of against a Mouse King. The first ballet was commissioned in 1891 by the Moscow Imperial Theater. The music is by Tchaikovsky and it was originally choreographed by Marius Petipa. The composer selections known at the Nutcracker Suite Op 71a became instantly popular, but the ballet did not achieve its great prominence as a Christmas event until much later when it was performed out of Russia in Europe and the United States.
The first performance outside Russia was in England in 1934 and annual performances still take place by the English National Ballet. The first US adaptation was in 1944 performed by the San Francisco Ballet. It was not until 10 years later in 1954 that widespread popularity was reached with George Balanchine’s Nutcracker in New York City. George Balanchine is a renowned choreographer whose version utilizes more children and since Clara and the Nutcracker Prince are children there is no romance aspect. This and other versions across the world are an essential part of the Christmas season for many families.
Holiday Traditions around the World: Christmas in JAPAN
Japan is predominately Shinto. Shinto is an ethnic religion based in ritual practices to connect modern Japan with its ancient past. It is said to have started in the sixth century, but there is no known scripture or founder so Christmas does not play much of a part in Japan. The small amount of Christians in Japan celebrate Christmas with an ethnic twist. For example, the nativity participants are dressed in traditional Japanese costume. The Christmas tree is decorated with origami ornaments. The Santa figure is an old man, Hoteiosho who carries a pack and is said to have eyes in the back of his head prompting the children to behave at all times! Hoteiosho is considered a god or priest in Japanese culture.
The traditional New Year celebration of O-Shogatsu is the most important Japanese holiday of the year. It is celebrated from January 1st – January 3rd. Years are viewed completely separately so worries must be left behind in an old year and the new year must start fresh. Homes are cleaned on New Year’s Eve to make way for a renewed start on January 1st. Bonenkai parties (forget the year gatherings) are thrown throughout the country for offices, friends and families to leave their troubles behind and conclude any unfinished business. Tokishoshi soba is known as the year crossing noodle and is served on New Year’s Eve to promote longevity. Read More
Holiday Traditions Around the World: Christmas in France
Christmas in France is both a religious and secular holiday as it is in most modern countries. In French, Christmas = Noël and is a reference to the Gospel. It comes from the French phrase “les bonnes nouvelles” which means “the good news”. L’Avent en France (Advent) commences the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Although the Christmas tree is not so popular, homes all throughout France display the Nativity scene “la crèche”. The creche is often coupled with figures called little saints or “santons” which represent the Holy Family, shepherds, Magi as well as local dignitaries and people in the community. The craftsmanship and molds utilized to create the santons have been passed down from generation to generation since the seventeenth century. Puppet shows leading up to Christmas are well attended particularly in Paris and Lyon. One of the most famous Christmas puppet plays is Bethlemen 1933 and is considered a masterpiece.