Walt Disney World has announced Christmas dates & details, with new info about some of the entertainment, decorations, food, etc. at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Disney Springs, and the hotels. In this post, we’ll share everything revealed today as part of the “Halfway to the Holidays” celebration, and offer commentary about what’s coming, what’s (likely) cancelled, and what’s still unknown.
This year, Walt Disney World will celebrate Christmas beginning on November 11, 2022. Our expectation was that Christmas would begin one week earlier, which is roughly the normal start. No end date has been provided, but it’s still early. Last year, the holiday season ended on December 30; it would make sense to restore the post-New Year’s end date, but that could occur unofficially. We shall see.
We’ve been nervously and anxiously awaiting this news, and are fairly excited. However, we should caution you now that this holiday time announcement is a mixed bag. With Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration still running during the Christmas 2022 season, there are unsurprisingly some cuts and compromises to the normal lineup. So brace yourselves for that. Let’s dig into the details!
We’ll get the bad news out of the way first. There will be no Cinderella Castle Dream Lights in Magic Kingdom. Pretty disappointing, but anyone who has followed our recent prediction post knew the writing was on the wall.
This is the third consecutive year of no lights on Cinderella Castle, which is undoubtedly disappointing for Walt Disney World fans who make annual Christmas-time trips. However, one silver lining here is that the door is still open for the return of Dream Lights after the 50th Anniversary. As such, we don’t really view this as concerning precedent…yet.
On a positive note, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party will be held on select nights in November and December 2022.
Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Sunset Seasons Greetings returns to the Hollywood Holiday Tower Hotel on Sunset Boulevard.
This park icon will twinkle with projection effects, transforming into a snowy corner of Arendelle, a Muppets gingerbread masterpiece, a Toy Story toy hotel, and a Dickensian village inspired by “Mickey’s Christmas Carol.” As with the Cinderella Castle projections, this holiday show will also alternate with the tower’s nightly transformation into a Beacon of Magic.
At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Echo Lake is once again expected to get decked out for the holidays. This is one of our “sleeper spots” for Christmas at Walt Disney World. We could sit on a bench in front of Santa Gertie for hours, just soaking up the atmosphere and listening to the great background music.
After a two-year hiatus, Toy Story Land will have “special holiday touches” for Christmas 2022. We assume this is Disneyspeak for decorations, but who knows. Maybe they’ll surprise us and Toy Story Mania will get a Christmas edition!
Also at DHS, Minnie Mouse will be hosting a yuletide feast at Hollywood & Vine at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with the return of Minnie’s Holiday Dine (which we absolutely love). Santa Goofy will be there, along with Minnie and others in their holiday finery.
Continuing with characters, you will also be able to enjoy “For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration,” with its festive finale featuring Olaf.
The biggest Christmas “character” of all is, of course, Santa Claus. Jolly Old St. Nick will make special appearances throughout Walt Disney World. Catch him cruising down Hollywood Boulevard in his candy-apple red convertible at Disney’s Hollywood Studios during the Santa Claus Merry Motorcade and voyaging across the Discovery River as part of a festive flotilla at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Santa Claus will continue to spread the joyous spirit of the season during visits to Magic Kingdom and Disney Springs, where guests may have individual time to take photos and share their Christmas wishes.
At EPCOT, Santa Claus will join storytellers from around the world as a part of the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays.
Other performers around World Showcase will include the Canadian Holiday Voyageurs, Las Posadas with Mariachi Cobre, the Chinese Lion Dance, and various holiday storytellers. Here’s hoping Sigrid and Christmas Gnome Julenissen return to Norway!
Speaking of which, the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays will return this year, from November 25 through December 30, 2022.
This will feature Holiday Kitchens around the park, performances by Voices of Liberty, the Cookie Stroll, and more.
Walt Disney World will also celebrate the return of Candlelight Processional during the 2022 EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays. Beginning November 25, 2022, this long-standing tradition of heartwarming holiday performances at America Gardens Theatre.
More good news: Animal Kingdom will come alive with the return of a Merry Menagerie of winter animals realized in the form of life-size, artisan-sculpted puppets. During the day, Discovery Island is alive with a life-size “Merry Menagerie” of artisan-sculpted puppets that include reindeer, foxes, polar bears, penguins, birds, seals—and probably other critters we missed.
These winter animals are accompanied by serenading live musicians who mingle amongst guests and the Merry Menagerie of critters to create festive atmosphere. Seriously, these puppets are something special–truly some Real Christmas Magic at Walt Disney World!
Sticking with Animal Kingdom, the Discovery Island Drummers Festive Flotilla will also return, with a group of percussionists cruising along the Discovery River, entertaining guests on the shore.
Plus, be sure to stick around for evenings at Animal Kingdom, when the Tree of Life Awakenings – Holiday Edition will make its return. These beauty scenes of wintry wonderlands are accompanied by a heartwarming musical score.
Walt Disney World resort hotels will be decked out for the holidays, with their lobbies featuring iconic trees and other festive flourishes. Definitely good news for fans of Wilderness Lodge, Grand Floridian, Animal Kingdom, and other holiday favorites.
Additionally, select gingerbread displays will once again be part of the holiday season at Walt Disney World! Select resorts will also offer holiday menus and specialty food & drink at their restaurants.
At Disney Springs, the Christmas Tree Stroll will once again return. These elaborately decorated, Disney-themed trees will consist of returning favorites plus some new and some inspired by the World’s Most Magical Celebration.
Additionally, nightly snowfall will add a touch of wonder for holiday shoppers in Town Center. Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar becomes Jock Lindsey’s Holiday Bar and will feature yuletide touches alongside festive food and craft cocktails.
Now let’s turn to what’s not coming back–or at least hasn’t been announced yet. As we previously predicted, Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! is likely Jingle DEAD. If the holiday pyro and projections show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios were going to return, it would’ve made sense to bring it back last year. DHS has been having trouble keeping people in the park during the last few hours of the day, and that would’ve helped remedy the issue. For whatever reason, Disney opted against bringing back Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!
It’s unlikely the calculus on that decision has changed. If anything, the return of Fantasmic will give Disney’s Hollywood Studios the evening shot in the arm it needs, and help fix that problem. There’s the outside possibility that Walt Disney World will want “counterprogramming” to Fantasmic in DHS, but we doubt it. With both specials now being over a decade old, perhaps the Prep & Landing IP is viewed as past its prime.
Another thing that probably won’t return is A Frozen Holiday Wish at Magic Kingdom. For those who are unfamiliar with this, it is the hugely popular “stage show” with Elsa and other characters from Frozen who transform Cinderella Castle into a brilliant, wintery wonderland.
A Frozen Holiday Wish draws colossal crowds and I’ve always wondered what guest satisfaction is on this, as some people wait for an hour or more to watch a quick performance that’s over in a few minutes. The big reveal is undeniably impressive, but it’s also impressive without being anywhere near the stage. It’s Cinderella Castle’s transformation that wows guests, not Elsa waving her hands around. In any case, with no Cinderella Castle Dream Lights, there’s really no reason for A Frozen Holiday Wish to be performed.
As for the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights, this one is a big blow–but an expected one. (Not that that makes it any easier!) With Cinderella Castle getting a “Royal Makeover” for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary and receiving animated enhancements via projection mapping and nighttime lighting, it was a foregone conclusion that the Dream Lights would be on hiatus for another year.
Our only fear here is that with 3 years of no Cinderella Castle Dream Lights, that makes it easier for Disney to axe this display for Christmas 2023, too. While the projected holiday scenes are fun, they didn’t hold a candle to the physical icicle lights that brilliantly glow on the facade of the Magic Kingdom icon.
Those lights usually begin installation several months in advance of Christmas, and are undoubtedly more expensive from a labor and maintenance perspective. Disney getting a taste of that cost-savings and wanting to continue it is what worries me. Conversely, the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights being a huge holiday draw that probably pay for themselves several times over just in PhotoPass sales is what reassures me that they’ll likely return.
Ultimately, it’s exciting to have a mostly normal Christmas at Walt Disney World. Even with the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights and perhaps a few minor things missing, this holiday season is still going to be 95% normal–for the first time in the last 3 years.
On top of that, it’s still early. This is not presented as an exhaustive lineup of Walt Disney World’s Christmas-time entertainment and offerings. Several more things will almost certainly be announced in the coming months, which is exactly what happened last year. It’s easy to forget, but the bulk of the details about Christmas were released in September last year–not during the initial ‘detail drop’ over the summer. This is merely a teaser for this #HalfwaytotheHolidays (or Christmas in June/July), and already, it’s so much better than what was revealed at this time last year!
What do you think of this Walt Disney World news? What about Christmas entertainment, decorations, and various offerings this year? Will you be disappointed if there aren’t lights up for the holidays? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!