The holidays bring out what we think is best about EPCOT — the celebration of different cultural traditions from around the globe. EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays gives you a taste (literally!) of different holiday customs from every corner of the world, from delish dishes to unique festivities. Formerly Holidays Around the World, EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays toadally immerses you in the sights, sounds, flavors and stories of celebration to remind you of the reason for the season ... no matter what your frog fam's traditions are!
Overview of EPCOT International Festival of Holidays 2021
In 2020, the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays looked a little different due to COVID-19, but this year, we are hoppy to say that so much has returned, including the Holiday Storytellers, performances by the Voices of Liberty and the Candlelight Processional (it's the most wonderful time of the year!). The EPCOT festival usually starts at the end of November and runs through December, providing plenty of time to spread Christmas cheer. For this holiday season, the festival is running from Nov. 26 to Dec. 30. And best of all, EPCOT Festival of the Holidays is included with regular park admission!
The holidays have arrived and we frogs hopped to EPCOT for this year's festival, so read on for our festive guide! (We won't judge if you're playing Christmas music as you read. Siri, play "All I Want for Christmas is You.")
Entertainment at EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays 2021
The most popular entertainment at the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays is the Candlelight Processional. With nightly performances at America Gardens Theatre, a celebrity narrator retells the biblical tale of Christmas along with a live orchestra and the Walt Disney Cast Choir performing inspirational songs of hope and joy. This is the perfect way to remind your tadpoles of the reason for the season as you enjoy gorgeous choral pieces. Though unable to be held in 2020, we're so hoppy that the Candlelight Processional has returned for 2021!
Performances are held each night at 5:15 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. at America Gardens Theatre. The choir usually consists of community and school groups, but for 2021, we have an expanded cast choir, along with the Voices of Liberty.
The 2021 celebrity narrators are:
- Nov. 26-28: Auli'i Cravalho
- Nov. 29 - Dec. 1: Chita Rivera
- Dec. 2-4: Jodi Benson
- Dec. 5-7: Alton Fitzgerald White
- Dec. 8-10: Bart Millard
- Dec. 11-13: Lisa Ling
- Dec. 14-16: Andy Garcia
- Dec. 17-19: Ana Gasteyer
- Dec. 20-22: Courtney B. Vance
- Dec. 23-25: Steven Curtis Chapman
- Dec. 26-28: Blair Underwood
- Dec. 29-30: Pat Sajak
The musical pieces are beautifully woven between the narration. You'll recognize some tunes, such as "Silent Night," during which the conductor encourages the crowd to join in singing. We won't spoil the specifics, but we love the beginning and how it starts off with the orchestra, then introduces the Voices of Liberty, followed by the grand entrance of the choir, and finally, the narrator.
Seating is first-come, first-served and can fill up fast. You'll want to be there at least an hour in advance to join the standby queue. To secure a spot at the Candlelight Processional event of your choice, try booking a dining package in advance. When you reserve a Candlelight Dining Package, you can enjoy a full meal with your frog squad at almost any table-service restaurant in EPCOT, as well as guaranteed priority seating at one of the evening Processional showings. Note that most discounts, including Annual Passholder and Tables in Wonderland, do not apply to these packages. (Booking is available now, but reservations are going quickly!)
Holiday Storytellers and World Holiday Traditions
Performers bring local holiday traditions to life in their respective countries around World Showcase during EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays. These storytellers share the history of their unique, time-honored celebrations from various countries through fun performances. Leap and I jump at any chance to educate our tadpoles while at Walt Disney World, and these performances are an enjoyable way to teach them about other cultures. Sadly, the storytellers did not return in 2020 (and their absence was felt), but many have returned for 2021!
The storytellers are usually something we enjoy in passing, rather than planning specific times to visit them since they take place intermittently throughout the day during the festival. It is nearly impossible to see them all in one day without hopping all over the place! However, it can be fun to seek out a certain country from your heritage to learn more about its traditions. You can find showtimes on the My Disney Experience app for those that you just can't miss! We find that most of the storytellers have at least one performance every hour or so. Here are the holiday traditions and storytellers for 2021:
- Mexico: Las Posadas presents dancers, piñatas and Mariachi music.
- Canada: The Canadian Holiday Voyageurs will have you rockin' around the Christmas tree.
- China: A colorful performance from Chinese lion dancers captures the happiness of celebrating the Lunar New Year.
- Hanukkah: Storyteller Zachary shares the legends and songs of Hanukkah celebrations worldwide.
- France: Père Noël shares the letter of an adorable child as he explains his own Christmas tradition.
- Italy: La Befana, the kind-hearted witch who visits children on the Eve of the Epiphany, shares her story.
- Japan: You can ring in the Japanese New Year with the story behind its good luck charm, the Daruma doll.
- Norway: A hilarious-yet-mischievous Barn Santa visits Sigrid, an unsuspecting Christmas storyteller.
- United Kingdom: Father Christmas shares the traditions of the United Kingdom in his lush holiday garb.
- America: Santa travels from the North Pole to meet all the good boys and girls.
This year, he is individually greeting tadpoles so you're able to have enough personal time to share your wishlist with him. But character sightings are still at a distance (so no sitting on his lap!).
JOYFUL! A Celebration of the Season
JOYFUL! A Celebration of the Season concerts celebrate the joy of Christmas and Kwanzaa. In 2021, JOYFUL! concerts take place at the Showcase Plaza Stage, located at the entrance to World Showcase next to the Port of Entry store. The daily park guide or My Disney Experience lists the showtimes so you can stop by to enjoy a seasonal blend of inspiring gospel, jazz, R&B and more. Typical showtimes are 1:15, 2:20, 3:25 and 4:30 p.m. This wonderful, upbeat performance is sure to get your family in the holiday spirit in no time!
Living with the Land Holiday Overlay
Since 2019, the ride receives a holiday transformation with sparkling Christmas lights and decor. As we cruised through the EPCOT greenhouses, we spotted a family of snowmen, colorful wreaths and twinkling lights, including a Mickey reindeer head. Our favorite part was traveling through the final tunnel with all of the festive lights on both sides! While the decorations were up during the day, we thought it was better to ride at night for the full effect.
Seasonal Character Greetings
Since Walt Disney World Resort reopened, EPCOT has hosted some distanced character sightings, allowing guests to interact with a variety of characters. Some of the characters have added some festive touches in honor of the holiday season. We just adored seeing Winnie the Pooh in his Santa hat! Joy, who alternates with Winnie in the same spot, also has a holiday scarf.
The princesses are all in their normal outfits as they appear throughout the World Showcase, with a festive accessory, such as a bow. We were a little sad to see Belle is not wearing her maroon Christmas dress, but nonetheless, we're still hoppy to see the character sightings throughout the park.
Many of the iconic gingerbread houses returned throughout the resort this year. At The American Adventure pavilion, guests can see gingerbread replicas of the Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and even the American Adventure Pavilion itself!
Holiday Cookie Stroll
EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays has an assortment of different cookies at various locations around the park. If you purchase any five cookies from the Holiday Cookie Stroll locations, collect a stamp for each one in your Festival Passport. Once you have all five, bring the stamped passport to the Holiday Sweets & Treats Holiday Kitchen for a complimentary 50th-anniversary celebration cookie! With stops located across World Showcase and cookies at about $2.50 a pop, it's a pretty sweet deal, and fun for the tadpoles. Plus you don't have to get all five in one visit — you can always come back at a later date to complete the stroll if you're able to.
The 2021 Holiday Cookie Stroll locations are:
- Bavaria Holiday Kitchen (Germany): Linzer Cookie
- American Holiday Table (The American Adventure): Chocolate Crinkle Cookie made with DOVE dark chocolate (pictured)
- Yukon Holiday Kitchen (Canada): SNICKERS-Doodle Cookie made with SNICKERS bar pieces
- Holiday Hearth Desserts (Near Port of Entry): Gingerbread Cookie
- L'Chaim! Holiday Kitchen (between Morocco and France): Black and White Cookie
Olaf's Holiday Tradition Expedition
If your tadpoles are fans of Ratatouille’s Hide and Squeak at the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival, be sure to check out this scavenger hunt. This activity is a great way to keep little ones entertained while you sip and savor your way around World Showcase. Simply purchase a map and sticker set for $9.99 from Creations Shop, Port of Entry or World Traveler on International Gateway. (You can also find them at select Holiday Markets around World Showcase, but these stops are on your way in so you won’t miss a moment of the magic!)
Olaf has been sledding around World Showcase, collecting new and interesting holiday traditions to share with Anna and Elsa, but he has experienced a bit of a bumpy ride. Your tadpoles can help Olaf find his misplaced traditions in each World Showcase pavilion. When they spot Olaf, they have to match the tradition on his sleigh to the corresponding sticker on their maps. Once completed, return the map to Disney Traders, Creations Shop or World Traveler in exchange for a gift worth melting for!
Holiday Kitchens at EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays 2021
Leap and I can’t be the only frogs whose favorite part of EPCOT festivals is the food, right? EPCOT Festival of the Holidays is loaded with tasty treats sure to delight your taste buds. The wide selection of Holiday Kitchens is our favorite addition to the past Holidays Around the World. In 2021, the new Chestnuts and Good Cheer Holiday Kitchen serves up fire-roasted chestnuts and cinnamon-glazed almonds and cashews!
With 14 Holiday Kitchens to choose from, there is something for everyone among the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays menus!
Here's a full list of the 2021 Holiday Kitchens:
NEW! Chestnuts and Good Cheer Holiday Kitchen (Near Disney Traders)
- (New) Cinnamon-glazed Almonds (gluten/wheat friendly)
- (New) Cinnamon-glazed Cashews (gluten/wheat friendly)
- (New) Cinnamon-glazed Pecans (gluten/wheat friendly)
- (New) Fire-roasted Chestnuts (gluten/wheat friendly)
- (New) AMERICAN HERITAGE Gourmet Hot Cocoa (nonalcoholic)
- T.G. Lee Eggnog (nonalcoholic)
- (New) Sweet Nutty Stout, Orlando
- (New) AMERICAN HERITAGE Gourmet Hot Cocoa with Peanut Butter Whiskey, Whipped Cream and Candied Nuts
- (New) T.G. Lee Eggnog with Peanut Butter Whiskey
Holiday Hearth Desserts (Near Port of Entry)
- Red Velvet Mini Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
- Salted Caramel Spaceship Earth Cookie
- Snowball Cookies
- Peppermint Bark (gluten/wheat friendly)
- Mouse Crunch
- Gingerbread Cookie (Cookie Stroll)
- Hot Cocoa (nonalcoholic)
- (New) Cinnamon Apple Cider (nonalcoholic)
- Cocoa Candy Cane: Hot Cocoa with peppermint schnapps
Holiday Sweets and Treats (Near Port of Entry)
- Peppermint Sundae: Chocolate ice cream, whipped cream and peppermint candy (gluten/wheat friendly)
- Exclusive Redemption Cookie (Cookie Stroll)
- Hot Cocoa (nonalcoholic)
- Chocolate Peppermint Shake featuring Twinings Peppermint Cheer Tea (nonalcoholic)
- Eggnog White Porter
- (New) Coquito Beer
- (New) S'mores Black Lager
- Hot Cocoa with assorted alcoholic cordials
- Chocolate Peppermint Shake featuring Twinings Peppermint Cheer Tea and Whipped Cream Vodka
- Beer Flight
Mele Kalikimaka (Near Port of Entry)
- Kālua Pork with Okinawa Purple Sweet Potatoes and Mango Salad
- Lomi Lomi Salmon with Tomatoes, Onions, Salmon Roe, Yuzu Mayonnaise and Yucca Chips (gluten/wheat friendly)
- Haupia: Hawaiian coconut pudding with candied macadamia nuts and coconut
- (New) Hawaiian Pale Wheat Ale
- Sparkling Pineapple Wine, St. Petersburg, FL
- Melon Breeze with Spiced Rum
Las Posadas Holiday Kitchen (Mexico)
- Giant Tostada de Chorizo: Chorizo served on a giant tostada with chipotle black bean purée, salsa verde, queso cotija, crema Mexicana and pickled onion
- (New) Tamal de Barbacoa: Shredded barbacoa beef in a corn masa topped with ranchera salsa, queso cotija and crema Mexicana (gluten/wheat friendly)
- Dulce de Leche Churros sprinkled with Cinnamon-Sugar
- (New) Cranberry-Cinnamon Margarita: Apple-cinnamon infused mezcal, cranberry juice, orange liqueur and lime juice with a cinnamon-sugar rim
- Horchata Margarita: Tequila blanco, corn whiskey, horchata and cinnamon horchata rum
- (New) Mistletoe Cerveza: Lager with blackcurrant liqueur
Lotus Blossom Café (China)
- House-made Cheesy Crab Wontons
- Fireworks: Tequila gold, vodka, orange juice and mango syrup
Bavaria Holiday Kitchen (Germany)
- Pork Schnitzel with Mushroom Sauce, Spätzle and Braised Red Cabbage
- Cheese Fondue in a Bread Bowl with Steamed Baby Vegetables and Marble Potatoes
- Linzer Cookie (Cookie Stroll)
- Hard Apple Cider
- (New) German-style Gold Lager
- Doppelbock Beer
- Regional Riesling
- Glühwein: House-made hot spiced wine
- Beer Flight
Tuscany Holiday Kitchen (Italy)
- (New) Mezzelune Croccanti: Crispy half-moon breaded mozzarella-filled ravioli with pomodoro sauce
- (New) Ravioli: Shrimp ravioli in scampi sauce with white wine, garlic, lemon zest and parsley
- (New) Bomboloni alla Cioccolato-Nocciola: Chocolate-filled Italian doughnut with chocolate-hazelnut spread and powdered sugar
- Pinot Grigio
- Sparkling Red Wine
- Italian White Sangria with Prosecco
- Italian Red Sangria with Cabernet Sauvignon
- Italian Margarita with Tequila and Limoncello
American Holiday Table (The American Adventure)
- Slow-roasted Turkey with BEN'S ORIGINAL Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans and Cranberry Sauce
- Holiday Pot Pie with Jackfruit, Mushrooms, Carrots, Peas, Onions and Puff Pastry (plant-based)
- Pumpkin Gingerbread Cheesecake with Cranberry Whipped Cream and Candied Pumpkin Seeds
- Chocolate Crinkle Cookie made with DOVE dark chocolate (Cookie Stroll)
- Bright White Ale
- Eggnog White Porter
- Peppermint Chocolate Stout
- Regional White Wine
- Regional Red Wine
- Beer Flight
Shi Wasu Holiday Kitchen (Japan)
- Chirashi Sushi Tree: Sashimi-grade tuna, salmon, ikura and yellowtail with vegetables decorated on a bed of rice
- New Year Celebration Soba: Buckwheat soba noodles in hot dashi soup with shrimp tempura, fish cake, shiitake mushrooms and chopped green onion
- Mont Blanc Tart: Matcha mousse tart with a sweet red bean center sprinkled with konpeito sugar candy
- (New) Chocolate Banana Boba: Cocoa, Japanese milky drink, banana syrup, and strawberry popping boba pearls (nonalcoholic)
- (New) Sparkling Plum Wine
- (New) Chocolate Tokyo Banana: Cocoa, Japanese milky drink, banana syrup and vodka
- (New) Pomegranate Draft Lager: Rice lager with hints of pomegranate and lemon
Tangierine Café: Flavors of the Medina (Morocco)
- (New) Grilled Kebabs with Carrot-Chickpea Salad and Garlic Aïoli
- Lamb Kefta (gluten/wheat friendly)
- Harissa Chicken (gluten/wheat friendly)
- Stone-baked Moroccan Bread with Hummus, Fig Tapenade and Zhoug Dip
- (New) Almond-spiced Cake with Ginger Mousse, Orange Ganache and Sesame Tuile
- (New) Lavender Apple Hard Cider
- Ginger Tumeric Hard Cider
- Spicy Nutmeg Hard Cider
- (New) Fig Cocktail with Sparkling Wine, Fig Vodka and Cranberry Juice
- Cider Flight
L'Chaim! Holiday Kitchen (between Morocco and France)
- Pastrami on Rye with House-made Pickles and Deli Mustard
- Smoked Salmon Potato Latke (gluten/wheat friendly)
- Potato Latkes (gluten/wheat friendly; plant-based)
- Sufganiyot: Mini Jelly-filled Donuts
- Black and White Cookie (plant-based; Cookie Stroll)
- Hanukkah Beer
- Blue Cosmo Cocktail
Le Marché de Noël Holiday Kitchen (France)
- (New) Napoleon de Saumon Fumé en Brioche: Smoked salmon napoleon with layers of smoked salmon, dill mousse and crème fraîche mousse served in brioche
- (New) Dinde Forestière, Patates Douces Rôties: Turkey with bacon, mushrooms and onions in a mustard cream sauce served with roasted sweet potatoes
- (New) Bûche de Noël Chocolat Blanc, Framboise: Chocolate Christmas log with chocolate biscuit, white chocolate mousse, raspberry cream and chocolate fudge coating
- Frozen Hot Chocolate Martini: Vanilla vodka, vodka, chocolate milk and whipped cream
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Rosé Sparkling Wine
- Cranberry Mimosa: Sparkling wine with orange juice and cranberry syrup
Yukon Holiday Kitchen (Canada)
- Seared Scallops with Parsnip Silk, Apple Chutney and Hazelnut Croquant
- Beef Bourguignon with Crushed Potatoes
- Maple Bûche de Noël: Maple Mousse and Cranberry rolled in Gingerbread Chiffon Cake
- (New) SNICKERS-Doodle Cookie made with SNICKERS bar pieces (Cookie Stroll)
- Frozen Coffee (nonalcoholic)
- Maple Cinnamon Coffee Beer
- (New) Maple Cookie Blonde Ale
- (New) Peanut Butter and Banana Porter
- Icewine, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
- Red Wine, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
- Frozen Coffee with Whisky
- Beer Flight
We tasted a few dishes from around the world (but look forward to returning for more!). We started off with the Peppermint Donut from The Donut Box, which was delicious and got us in the seasonal spirit right away. We got the Pastrami on Rye with house-made pickles and deli mustard from L'Claim!, which we enjoyed but the portion was rather small. The American Holiday Table offers some classic Turkey Day faves, where we also had the Chocolate Crinkle Cookie. The cookie was very rich, and we recommend splitting it (though only one can enjoy the classic Dove chocolate piece). At Japan, we got the cute Sushi Tree, which has a spicy kick. Tad and Lily agreed (for once!) on the Bûche de Noël Chocolat Blanc from Le Marché de Noël Holiday Kitchen as their top treat.
My favorite conquest of any EPCOT festival is finding a bit more adventurous fare that I can talk Tad and Lily into trying. This year, it was the Sushi Tree that I mentioned previously. Lily wasn't a big fan of the spice but Tad gobbled up his portion.
While there’s already so much to feast on at the Holiday Kitchens, don’t miss out on special seasonal grub at standard food and beverage locations! These additional food and drink locations include:
Refreshment Port (Near Canada)
- (New) Coquito Soft-Serve Waffle Cone
- Turkey Poutine: French fries with turkey gravy, cranberry relish and crispy onions
- (New) Cranberry Hard Cider
- (New) Pumpkin Spice Ginger Cocktail
- (New) Coquito Soft-serve with Spiced Rum
- (New) Coconut-Pineapple Cake with DOLE Whip
- (New) Midnight Lager
- (New) Nairobi Coffee Dark Beer
The Donut Box (Near Test Track)
- (New) Pumpkin Cake Donut with Pumpkin Spice Icing
- (New) Holiday Donut with Coconut and Crisp Pearls
- (New) Chocolate Peppermint Donut
- (New) Eggnog-Cream-filled Donut with Cinnamon Icing and Crumbled Gingersnap Cookies
- Gingerbread Milkshake (nonalcoholic)
- (New) Gingerbread Stout
- Gingerbread Milkshake with Whipped Cream Vodka
- (New) Mini Pumpkin Pie Funnel Cake: Pumpkin funnel cake topped with ice cream, whipped cream and graham cracker crumbles
Joffrey's Coffee and Tea Company
- (New) Carolers’ Cold Brew – Joffrey’s French Roast Cold Brew with brown butter toffee, swiss chocolate syrup and sweet cream topped with whipped cream and TWIX bar pieces
Tips for EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays 2021
Here are our favorite top tips for EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays:
- Use the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays Passport to keep track of your adventures! This small booklet lets you know what's hoppening around every corner, from entertainment locations to menu items and every fun activity in between. This is critical to make sure you don't miss anything during your World Showcase stroll, and it made our lives so much easier. However, be sure to check out the My Disney Experience app for specific showtimes!
- If you're wanting some individual time with Santa, be sure to catch his set times and try to arrive at or before the start time. He typically stays out for an hour at a time and has lots of great conversations.
- We found that crowds seemed to grow as the day went on. We arrived right at park opening and enjoyed light crowds for the first couple of hours. We experienced longer lines at the Holiday Kitchens during peak lunch and dinner times.
- We recommend arriving close to park opening to make the most of your day. Once night falls, grab some dinner (if you're still hungry, that is!) and take an evening ride on Living with the Land.
- For Christmas gift inspiration, check out the Holiday Markets throughout World Showcase. The Chip 'n' Dale collection is too cute!
- Keep in mind that Thanksgiving week and the last two weeks of December are the busiest times of the year at Walt Disney World, so crowds will be inevitable then.
- There are many photo opportunities throughout the festival. However, you can't miss the iconic tree in the middle of World Showcase Plaza!
We hope you've found this guide to the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays hopful as you plan your trip. Drop us a line and share a tip for the festival — or your favorite parts of this annual event!