Every November the “Happiest Place on Earth” is transformed into the “Merriest Place on Earth” as Disneyland gets decked out for the holidays. With a massive Christmas tree standing proudly in the Center of Town Square and majestic Sleeping Beauty’s Castle decorated with shimmering icicles and ornaments at the heart of the park, the length of Main Street that stretches between the two plays an important role in the park’s annual holiday celebration.
Every day during the holiday season, the “A Christmas Fantasy Parade” makes its way down Main Street sharing the holiday spirit with guests lining the parade route. Accompanied by reindeer, snowmen and even Santa and Mrs. Claus, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many other favorite Disney characters delight park guests both young and old. And every night, The “Believe…in Holiday Magic” fireworks spectacular lights the skies above Sleeping Beauty’s castle and culminates with a magical Disney snowfall.
Since 1958, another Disney holiday tradition, the Candle Light Ceremony and Processional has told the story of Christmas through music and song. The first Candle Light Procession consisted of individual choirs performing holiday music under a gazebo near the Jungle Cruise attraction. In 1960, the Procession grew to 800 singers who followed behind the Christmas parades and, in 1961, a narrator was added. Past narrators included Cary Grant, Gregory Peck and John Wayne.
This event has remained one of Disneyland’s best-kept holiday secrets…until now. 2012 marked the 54th year of the ceremony, but it is the first year that Disneyland annual pass holders were invited to enter a drawing to win free tickets to see this magnificent event. And also for the first time, the traditional 2-night ceremony was extended to twenty days in order to accommodate as many pass holders as possible; however, the first two performances were by invitation only as they have been since Walt Disney first held a private holiday celebration to thank members of the community for their support throughout the year. For those Disneyland guests who are not pass holders, or for those unlucky pass holders who did not win tickets, there is standing room along both sides of Town Square, allowing thousands of spectators to experience this extraordinary holiday event.
December 20th marked the last day of the 2012 Candle Light Ceremony and Processional. The ceremony began immediately following the lighting of the Disneyland Christmas tree with a procession of hundreds of singers from Los Angeles and Orange County church, high school and university choirs and vocal groups making their way down a darkened Main Street holding candles. As they reached the Center of Town Square, the singers took their places on platforms in front of the iconic Disneyland Railroad Main Street Station. Joined by a full orchestra, tuned bell ringers and fanfare trumpeters, the singers performed traditional holiday songs as the narrator (on this day actor John Stamos), read the story of Christmas as told by the Bible. At one point, the enormous crowd was invited to join the singers in an uplifting rendition of “Silent Night.” Spectators said the warmth between strangers and the feeling of holiday spirit was palpable. In his closing remarks, Stamos said, “As [we] leave here tonight…let’s carry [the] good will that we feel…and [the] love that we have in our hearts and let’s shine and inspire goodness to all those people out there in the world. That’s what Disney is about to me.”
Now that the Candle Light Ceremony and Procession secret is out, it is sure to take its place alongside the holiday parade, fireworks and fairy-tale snowfall as one of the favorite holiday traditions for Disneyland guests. It seems now the only Disneyland holiday secret left is how to get a wristband for one of the limited special hand-made holiday candy canes! Shhhh…