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Epcot International Festival of the Holidays by Liliane Opsomer

Epcot , Holidays at Disney World , Walt Disney World

The International Festival of the Holidays Starts the Epcot Yuletide Season on November 19th.

My favorite park to visit during the holidays has always been Epcot, and this year the park will be even more special. New this year is the International Festival of the Holidays. A total of 15 kiosks will serve up seasonal food and beverage specialties from the 11 World Showcase nations.

The Mexican holiday kiosk will have yummy carnitas tacos and the famous horchata margaritas. What would Christmas be in Germany without Christmas Stollen, the famous holiday fruitcake? But the real treat at the Germany kiosk will be Sauerbraten (with red cabbage and spätzle) and my favorite winter drink, Glüwein.

The American Holiday Table at the American Pavilion will serve roast turkey, complete with stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. And don’t miss out on the sweets of the season, such as gingerbread men, chocolate chunk and sugar cookies, hot apple cider, delicious peppermint bark, holiday tree sugar cookies, eggnog, hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps, and eggnog with Buffalo Trace Kentucky bourbon.

Near World Showcase Plaza, the Feast of the Three Kings is a kiosk inspired by the story of Los Reyes Magos. The kiosk will serve food and drink from the Caribbean. I can’t wait to taste the beef tamale with avocado, the roasted pork with mashed yucca and pickled green bananas, and Three Kings bread.

In France, you must try gingerbread ice cream and the Bûche de Noël; in Italy, go for the famous Panettone. The Norway kiosk is home to frozen peppermint trifle; at the China pavilion, guests can enjoy pai cha, a Beijing-style fried dough twist with sesame.

Storytellers Are the Stars of the International Festival of the Holidays

But what would the holidays be without the wonderful tales from around the world? Storytellers appear in each of the 11 countries’ pavilions throughout the day and are simply amazing. I recommend you visit them all.

In Italy, La Befana, the good witch who brings gifts to children on Epiphany, is one of my favorites.

In Norway, meet the mischievous Christmas Elf Julenissen, who represents simplicity and peace. He is known to play a little trick or two, so beware!

At the United Kingdom pavilion, Father Christmas tells tales of Christmas past, dating back to 15th century England. In France, it is the Père Noël who awaits your visit as he unfolds the magic of Christmas with a letter from a child.

At the American pavilion, in addition to the Dickens Christmas carols performed by the one and only Voices of Liberty, make sure to discover the Hanukkah traditions and the spirit of Kwanzaa. The interactive Kwanzaa and Hanukkah storytelling are perfect for introducing children to these traditions. 

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be holding court at the American pavilion daily at 1:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., and 7:30 p.m.

In each land, the holiday traditions of the respective country are explained. A favorite of mine is Helga at the German pavilion, who welcomes visitors throughout the afternoon, telling the origins of the first Christmas tree, the advent calendar, and how the nutcracker became a staple in homes worldwide. She is so funny and witty; at the end of her tale, a nutcracker joins her onstage for a great picture opportunity.

In Morocco, celebrations are “the spice of life,” and the storyteller takes guests through a journey of the many seasons and holidays of the country, including the feast of Ramadan.

At the Canadian pavilion, the Holiday Voyageurs will take guests on a musical journey exploring unique holiday traditions from the various regions of our neighbor to the north.

The Japan pavilion mesmerizes guests with the Daruma vendor, who tells the story of the Daruma doll and the Japanese customs of the New Year. At the China pavilion, witness the Chinese Lion Dance, which brings good fortune during the celebrations of the Chinese Lunar New Year and the Chinese Lantern Festival.

At the Mexico pavilion, mariachi players and dancers invite guests to join a traditional holiday fiesta.

Just like the International Food and Wine Festival, the International Festival of the Holidays is a perfect opportunity to introduce young children to Epcot. Kids will love listening to the storytellers and taking in the sounds, tastes, and smells of the holiday season. Plan ahead and make sure to check the Times Guide for the daily schedule of all events taking place throughout World Showcase. The International Yuletide extravaganza lasts through December 30, 2017.

On the Future World’s Fountain Stage, the holiday show features the group Joyful. The show blends Gospel music and inspirational music, while Mostly Kosher will perform holiday classics celebrating Hanukkah in the America Pavilion.

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth features a special holiday ending. Some of the best viewing spots include the area between the two gift shops at the entrance of World Showcase, the bridge between France and the United Kingdom, the front of Italy’s pavilion (when not occupied by private parties), the patio seating at Rose & Crown restaurant, and the terraces of Spice Road Table and La Hacienda de San Angel restaurants.

New Scavenger Hunt for the International Festival of the Holidays

New this year is Chip & Dale’s Christmas Tree Spree Scavenger Hunt. Join the two super-excited chipmunks as they collect ornaments for their Christmas tree. For $6.99, plus tax, you can purchase a map and stickers from select merchandise locations at Epcot, including Pin Central, Disney Traders, and World Traveler at International Gateway. As you travel around World Showcase, be on the lookout for Chip and Dale as they gather ornaments from holiday decorations in each World Showcase pavilion.

Every time you find them, add the corresponding ornament sticker to your map. Once you’ve found all the ornaments, take your completed map to Disney Traders and exchange it for a holiday surprise.

Free of charge is a holiday edition of the World Showcase Passport. The Holiday Passport features holiday treat and beverage locations, holiday merchandise, and holiday entertainment for each country around World Showcase, as well as any holiday photo ops. You can even ask the Epcot storytellers to sign each country of your Holiday Passport, and don’t forget to get your photo taken with them. You can pick up the booklet at holiday snack and beverage kiosks around World Showcase.

The Candlelight Processional (the first performance is scheduled for November 24th), featuring celebrity narrators such as Neil Patrick Harris, Warwick Davis, and Whoopi Goldberg—accompanied by a huge live choir and full orchestra—is an absolute must. The show takes place three times a day (5 p.m., 6:45 p.m., and 8:15 p.m.) at the America Gardens Theatre and is included with regular admission. The Candlelight Processional is a most impressive performance that will certainly put you in the holiday spirit.

The International Festival of the Holidays is sure to delight, so don’t miss it!

If you’re planning a visit to Walt Disney World during the busy holiday season, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids. The guide has all you need to plan a successful visit, including Touring Plans specifically geared towards families visiting with young children.

Liliane Opsomer is the coauthor of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids and visits the parks several times a year.

 



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