Early November through January, Disneyland Paris celebrates “Disney’s Enchanted Christmas,” during which the park is decked out for the holidays. This post offers tips for enjoying Disneyland Paris’ Christmas features lights, beautiful Christmas tree, Disney Dreams of Christmas, and other special Christmas entertainment.
Disneyland Paris at Christmas-time is much like Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom or Disneyland in California, but with its own unique twists. If being cold is an important part of the Christmas experience for you, you’re in luck! Christmas at Disneyland Paris has weather you’d actually associate with winter, and a real snowfall in late November or December is not uncommon.
This post has been updated with new photos and information for Christmas at Disneyland Paris, but it’s based on our visit a couple of years ago. Those using it for Disneyland Paris vacation planning should keep in mind that entertainment changes from year to year, so this is more a pseudo-trip report or rough outline of what to expect rather than precise info on what to expect. For exact details of what’s offered, check out the official Disneyland Paris Christmas page.
Before we get to the details of Disneyland Paris at Christmas, if you’re planning a trip to Disneyland Paris, you’ll want to check out our Disneyland Paris Trip Planning Guide.
Before we go any further, let’s set the mood. No, I’m not going to dictate that you turn down the lights, pour a cup of eggnog, and light the fireplace. But I do think it would “enhance” your enjoyment of the rest of this post if you read and viewed it while listening to the greatest Disney theme park Christmas song known to mankind: Chante, c’est Noël.
This song is the unofficial theme song of Christmas at Disneyland Paris. It was once (apparently) played during a Christmas parade at Disneyland Paris. Then it was played at the close of the previous Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Now, I think it’s just played back in Santa Claus Village at Cottonwood Creek Ranch. Why it’s no longer prominent is beyond me, because it rocks.
Now that the mood is set, let’s head to Paris and take a look at a Parisian Christmas, Disney-style!
I’ll start with the Christmas tree lighting ceremony. The Christmas tree lighting used to involve characters coming out atop a double decker bus and sing and dance before bringing out a small child who uses the power of magic (donning a sorcerer cap, gown, and magic wand) to light the Disneyland Paris Christmas tree in a show that was maybe 15 minutes long.
Since Disneyland Paris got a new Christmas tree, the show has changed from the cute character show to a more technically-impressive display called Magical Christmas Wishes. This show is about 5 minutes long and beautifully combines music with light for show that is less “cute” and more “wow”. It takes place from the Christmas tree in Town Square all the way down Main Street, with dazzling color-changing lights, Christmas music, and, of course, narration about magic, wishes, and the like.
This new show involves the garland on Main Street and doesn’t feature a “stage” (so to speak) in front of the tree, so even though people do gather for it, there’s no need to camp out to be right by the Christmas tree. Just show up 5 minutes or so before it starts. For me, it’s a toss-up as to whether I prefer the new show or the old one. The new one is definitely captivating with its lighting effects, but the old one had this charm to it as Mickey and friends illuminated the Christmas tree.
Shortly after the Disneyland Paris Christmas tree lighting show, Sleeping Beauty Castle has its lighting show. The fountains and lighting system from Disney Dreams of Christmas are used for the Sleeping Beauty Castle lighting “show,” which only lasts a couple of minutes, but looks pretty awesome.
The Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant Christmas lights are definitely more subdued than the lights on the US castles, with far fewer hanging “icicles.” These lights look more like roofs covered with glistening snow. Again, in years past there were more hanging lights, but the display was modified to accommodate the projections from Disney Dreams.
The plus side to there being fewer lights and to the early nightfall in Marne-la-Vallée, France is that Sleeping Beauty Castle looks “normal” at the start of the day into the evening, so you can easily get night photos of it looking normal and the icicle castle in the same night.
Earlier in the day, there is a decent amount of other Christmas entertainment. Characters like Belle and Duffy are available for meet and greets in their holiday finery, as are other characters in Town Square and locations throughout the park. The big new ones are Anna & Elsa from Frozen and Jack Skellington as Sandy Claws. While we like character meet & greets, the lines for these were prohibitively long, so we skipped them.
Apparently Europeans like characters just as much as Americans, because I saw the Anna & Elsa line with a 6 hour wait one day! If you’re interested in seeing which characters are out at Christmas, and what they look like, check out Character Central, which has tons of Disneyland Paris Christmas character photos.
Of course, you can meet Santa himself back in Cottonwood Creek Ranch, located in the northern corner of Frontierland. This tranquil area bustles at Christmas when it becomes Santa Claus Village, featuring snowy rooftops, twinkling icicle lights hanging from the trees, and garland all around. The North Pole Post Office has a satellite branch here, and guests can (presumably) send letters to Santa and meet elves or Santa.
This portion of Disneyland Paris is really beautiful in general; it’s in a tucked away area of the park, so with the exception of the long line to meet Santa, there aren’t many people around. This enhances the rustic ambiance that’s created by the barn, large trees, and the various props. We met Santa’s elves since there was no wait to see them. They were a hoot! They gave us a hard time, played with one another, and one even threw a (fake) temper tantrum. Someone needs to lay off the sugar cookies!
Since Phantom Manor does not receive a Nightmare Before Christmas overlay like the other Haunted Mansion attractions, there’s only one Christmas attraction, and that’s ‘it’s a small world’.
For the holidays, it’s dubbed ‘it’s a small world’ celebration. It uses the same holiday soundtrack as the other seasonal versions, plus holiday costumes for many of the dolls, and decorations sprinkled throughout the sets. The set decorations are sparser than the Disneyland version and there are no Christmas lights on the facade, which is a bit of a letdown, but the costumes on the figures are a nice touch.
In terms of entertainment, the big draw is Disney Dreams of Christmas, which debuted last year and returned this year with modifications. For those unfamiliar, Disney Dreams! is Disneyland Paris’ nighttime spectacular set around Sleeping Beauty Castle. The show simultaneously has fire, fireworks, projections, lasers, and fountains. It’s sort of like a mix of fireworks, Celebrate the Magic, and World of Color. It’s pretty tough to photograph, but you can check out my Disney Dreams Viewing & Photography Tips post for some insight there.
Disney Dreams of Christmas has a lot of similarities to World of Color – Winter Dreams, as the two Christmas shows appear to have been developed simultaneously, and feature very similar show scenes, songs, and animations. Both World of Color – Winter Dreams and Disney Dreams of Christmas went a little Frozen-crazy with some songs that don’t really fit, but Disney Dreams of Christmas didn’t go quite as far overboard.
Overall, it’s still a very good show, and anyone with Frozen fans in their party (judging by the collective audience reaction when Elsa started singing “Let it Go”, I’d assume that’s just about everyone) will really enjoy it. Obnoxious parts like the Olaf ‘dancing butt’ sing-along have been put out of their misery, and the show is also generally paced better than World of Color – Winter Dreams. Even though it’s really similar to that show, it’s a lot better.
Disney’s Christmas Parade is the other “big” thing done for Christmas in Disneyland Paris, and it has gotten longer each year, and is now arguably a cavalcade or short parade, depending upon who you ask.
It’s cute for what it is, but it does not come close to comparing to Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade or even A Christmas Fantasy parade, both of which are fairly old. It’s probably still a few years of additions away from being a serious Christmas parade.
Disneyland Paris’ lands are decked out for Christmas. In general, these decorations are more subdued than their US counterparts, with a notable exception: the restaurants. Holy cow! Seemingly every single restaurant had uniquely decorated Christmas trees, and its fair share of on-theme decorations.
We wandered through most counter service restaurants (even the ones at which we didn’t dine) to see their lavish theming, and we were a bit surprised to see so many cool trees and decorations. It would have been nice to see more on the exteriors of buildings and lampposts, but the restaurants were a nice surprise.
Much like the other Disney theme parks, Main Street is the most decorated of any land in Disneyland Paris. Beyond the Christmas tree and Sleeping Beauty Castle icicle lights, there are strands of garland strung from one side of the street to the other, and many shop windows feature beautiful Christmas displays.
The rest of Disneyland Paris Resort gets in the Christmas mood, but not to the same extent. I didn’t notice much of substance in the Walt Disney Studios Park, but we spent 30 minutes there at night. There was a mid-sized Christmas tree and some lights behind Partners. I think that’s it.
The hotels also put up Christmas decorations, with Disneyland Hotel being the highlight. Sequoia Lodge is also pretty good, and that hotel “feels” more like a Christmas-y place.
Other hotels were in the spirit as well, with Hotel New York featuring a Rockefeller Plaza ice skating rink and a large Christmas tree at the end of it. The rest of the hotels and the Disney Village had Christmas decorations up, but nothing really noteworthy.
Overall, a Disneyland Paris Christmas is definitely something worth experiencing. It’s not as extravagant as what you’ll find in Disneyland or Walt Disney World, but the incredible standard substance of the park compensates for that. Disney Dreams of Christmas is a great seasonal show, and the decorations are wonderful, but it would be nice for the parade to ‘grow’ at a faster rate. Regardless, we really enjoyed Disneyland Paris at Christmas, and I would say it’s the perfect time for an American to visit Disneyland Paris for the first time (as long as you don’t mind the cold weather). Nothing is missing from the park as a result of the Christmas season (like Haunted Mansion is “missing” from Disneyland), and there are a number of Christmas enhancements that are icing on the cake!
For the basics of planning a visit to Disneyland Paris, check out our Disneyland Paris Trip Planning Guide. Want to see more photos or read about Disneyland Paris in agonizing detail? Check out our Disneyland Paris Trip Report!
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Have you ever experienced Disneyland Paris at Christmas? Are you interested in visiting at Christmas now? Your comments are half the fun, so please share any questions or feedback about Disneyland Paris at Christmas that you have in the comments!