Author: Mostly Sunny Tourist
Date of Trip: December 2010
To begin with, be sure to stay at a Disney World hotel if you can. Once you get off your plane in Orlando, you are picked up by the Magical Express bus and taken to your hotel. Then you can use their bus system to get to all the parks. That said, I was just there in early December and I spent an entire day at Epcot’s World Showcase visiting many of the countries and learning about their holiday traditions.
First stop: Canada. I listened to their lumberjack Santa tell tales of the diversity of Canada’s population and how French and English traditions mingle to create a unique blend of Christmas customs. As he talked, he put on boots, white gloves, and a stocking cap to show that he just might be Santa himself!
In France, Pere Noel (who is thin and wears a scarlet cloak) tells how he brings toys to the children in France and how they write letters to him. They leave out a shoe for him to leave their toys in. He described the santons, little carved figurines that represent people in town that the children might know, and how this custom is observed in Provence.
One thing I noticed was that in just about every country, good children receive toys and gifts and not-so-good ones get lumps of coal. I suppose that overall children have done more good things because who ever hears of anyone getting coal in their stocking?
Italy has the tradition of a nice witch named Bafana who goes to the homes of boys and girls and leaves gifts because she is still seeking the Christ Child after 2000 years. Since she wants to be sure to have a gift just in case she does, she leaves gifts for every child. She also mentions that in Italy, Christmas is a special time for families to be together.
In Norway there is an impish gnome who likes children to leave him porridge for him to eat. Although he leaves presents for children, he seems to be more unpredictable than, say, Santa Claus!
Germany is the home of the Christmas tree, and the storyteller there described the possible reaction of Martin Luther’s wife to his dragging a fir tree into their house before anyone had any idea of why one would do this: “And just who is going to clean up this mess?”
In the United Kingdom pavilion, you can see Father Christmas in his green robe and hat. He is as kindly and pleasant as you would wish him to be to the boys and girls of all ages.
After visiting these and other countries and stopping (at least once) for hot chocolate, it’s time to see the Candlelight Procession at the USA pavilion. Choirs sing, an orchestra (featuring herald trumpets) plays, and a celebrity speaker tells the Christmas story. It is really a thrilling performance.
At the end of the evening, the gorgeous Illuminations program completes the experience with its depiction of our world, accompanied by music and fireworks. It’s a wonderful, memorable day.