We’re almost “Halfway to the Holidays.” Walt Disney World and Disneyland will be celebrating Christmas in July (or late June, I guess?) with another week of announcements. This post covers what to expect, plus our predictions about what’ll be announced–Very Merriest After Hours v. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, pricing, entertainment, etc.
This is the second year Disney Parks is doing #HalfwaytotheHolidays, and it makes us chuckle just a little bit. For one thing, being a Walt Disney World regular sorta means having a warped sense of seasons–we’re less than two months away from the start of Halloween season. For another, Christmas in July is already a thing–why not just embrace that established, fun tradition?
For normal Americans, there’s great debate about when the holiday season actually begins. Is it the day after Halloween? Is it the day Starbucks releases its Peppermint Mocha? The start of Hallmark Channel’s Countdown to Christmas? Or, are you one of those really old school people who still believes in the antiquated notion of Turkey Before Tree? These are the pressing questions of our day, all of which dictate when we’re actually halfway to the holiday season.
Given that the two of us already have hit our halfway to the holidays point, we’re pretty excited to find out what the Christmas 2022 season is going to entail at Walt Disney World. We’re really looking forward to the Halfway to the Holidays announcements and hope more normalcy is on the horizon. I know a lot of you are, too, as we’ve been getting a lot of questions about the Christmas parties and more.
On that note, the #HalfwaytotheHolidays festivities kick into high gear on Thursday (June 23, 2022), with what’s likely to be a barrage of announcements. If past precedent is any indication, there will also be a watch party for a Christmas classic on Disney+ (my guess is the Santa Clause given the upcoming series) and a live reveal of something on TikTok.
While you’re anxiously awaiting the news about the Christmas parties and whatever else, you can get in the spirit of the season by ordering holiday foods at select Walt Disney World and Disneyland locations. Here’s a rundown…
Downtown Disney at Disneyland Resort
Christmas Dinner Corn Dog from Blue Ribbon Corn Dogs (Available June 23 through 30)
Peppermint Churro from California Churro (Available June 23 through 30)
Walt Disney World
Very Minnie Mouse Cupcake from Gasparilla Island Grill at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort (Available June 23 through 26)
Peppermint Bark Cheesecake from The Mara at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (Available June 23 through 26)
The Gold Christmas Tree Popcorn Buckets is also back for the festivities, and will be sold all across Disney Springs at outdoor vending carts. Walt Disney World and Disneyland selling these seasonal snacks to celebrate these ‘Halfway’ events always amuses me. Unless you’re among the small segment of park-goers who are very online, you’re probably wondering why Disney is still selling Christmas snacks and popcorn buckets.
Okay, commentary time. The whole reason this post exists in the first place, as I want to make a few predictions…
Cinderella Castle Dream Lights Won’t Return – Let’s start with the negative predictions and get those out of the way. First, the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights won’t return this year. Even though Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebration has been a dud and is already running on fumes, it’s hard to see Disney bailing on the castle overlay early. Especially since that would also mean the costly installation of icicle lights on Cinderella Castle–and the decision to do so would need to be made at a time when attendance is still strong.
With that said, we still don’t think the Dream Lights are gone for good. For one thing, the 50th Anniversary ends next spring, so that excuse will be gone for Christmas 2023. For another, if there is an economic or travel slowdown, bringing back the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights after a multi-year hiatus would be one way to draw fans during a potential downturn.
Note that this and the next prediction won’t be confirmed by actual announcements, but rather, the absence of them. Walt Disney World typically doesn’t share negative news–we’ll know these aren’t returning if they aren’t mentioned. (Also, we really, really hope to be wrong about both!)
Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Is 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.
Ride Overlays Return – On a more positive note, it seems likely that what we dubbed the “Totally Tinsel Tomorrowland Trio” of ride overlays will return to Magic Kingdom. These are at Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, Tomorrowland Speedway, and Space Mountain.
Similar overlays are returning for the Halloween parties, so the same seems likely for the Christmas parties. These overlays help draw crowds to these underutilized attractions, thereby improving the distribution of crowds and allowing Disney to sell more tickets to the events. It’s a win-win, and seems like a no-brainer on that basis.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party Returns – Walt Disney World already announced that Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is making its spook season comeback, so this probably seems like an inevitability. While not conclusive, it is a very strong sign that Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party will also be back.
Mickey’s Halloween and Christmas Parties are essentially companion events, with the former starting in mid-August and running until October 31, and the latter picking up for the holiday season…about one week later. The two parties are logistically and structurally very similar, so it would be odd for Magic Kingdom to host MNSSHP but then switch over to Very Merriest After Hours for the Christmas season.
However, it is possible. November and December are historically much busier months than August and September, and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party requires closing Magic Kingdom at 6 pm several nights per week. In a year of normal attendance levels, this creates a logistical nightmare. The event artificially manipulates attendance patterns to an extreme and almost unmanageable degree.
By contrast, the After Hours events occur–as the name suggests–after normal operating hours have ended. Regular day guests are still able to see fireworks every night, which prevents a roller coaster crowd dynamic with low crowds on party days and heavy crowds on non-party days. Consequently, it’s possible Walt Disney World leadership won’t want to close so early several nights per week–a concern they’re more likely to have during peak holiday season dates as compared to the fall off-season–because of the crowd disruptions it’ll cause.
Last year, there was the expectation that the 50th Anniversary’s opening months would draw colossal crowds and thus the regular parties with the earlier closings they entailed would not be feasible. As it turned out, crowds were low in October, but attendance picked up considerably in November and December. Concerns of a repeat of that could result in another year of Disney Very Merriest After Hours despite MNSSHP returning.
The opening of TRON Lightcycle Run is another wild card, and it looks increasingly likely to debut this year–potentially during the holiday season around when Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opened a few years ago. This is another factor that could influence the After Hours v. MVMCP decision.
Still, it’s hard to imagine Walt Disney World bringing back MNSSHP but not Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. The latter is a fan favorite and the announcement of its return will be well-received. On top of that, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is much more profitable for Walt Disney World–even though After Hours tickets cost more–because the attendance cap for MVMCP is significantly higher.
All of that will likely tip the scales in favor of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. It seems like Disney is willing to tolerate some logistical headaches with attendance dynamics for the sake of hosting the more popular and more profitable event. Not only do I think Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is highly likely to return, but also that this is the right decision. Mickey’s Halloween and Christmas Parties are superior to their After Hours counterparts, and are well worth the problems they cause with crowds from August through December.
Tickets Over $100, Under $200 – Two years ago, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party tickets were briefly released (before being pulled) during the closure, with price points ranging from $105 to $155 per night. Last year, Disney Very Merriest After Hours tickets were $159 to $199 for most nights, with the final two events costing a cool $249. There was a lot of outrage about these price points, but if I recall correctly, every single night sold out.
Going back even further, the Christmas events have always cost more than their Halloween counterparts. This is likely due to supply and demand. There are typically fewer Christmas party nights and the holiday season is far busier, occurring during two of the busiest months of the year as opposed to two of the slowest months at Walt Disney World.
It thus stands to reason that tickets for the 2022 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party will cost more than those for this year’s MNSSHP. Those cost $109 to $199 per night, which is quite the wide range. However, if we narrow that to the busier month of October and exclude the uber-popular Halloween night itself, most dates cost $139 to $179.
Outside of the weeks around Veterans Day and Thanksgiving, October and November are similarly busy. As such, our expectation is that ticket prices for the 2022 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party will cost $139 to $199. (That might be a low estimate–it’s possible prices start at $149 and exceed $200 for the last couple of dates closest to Christmas.)
One wild card is how well tickets to the 2022 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party are selling. No dates have sold out yet, so it certainly doesn’t seem that Disney priced those parties too low. However, it is possible that they’re priced too high, especially in light of the higher attendance caps.
If tickets for the MNSSHP are falling short of expectations, or if Walt Disney World is already seeing a slowdown in bookings for fall and beyond, it’s possible the MVMCP price range ends up being lower. Don’t bet on that, though.
BONUS: Disneyland’s Christmas Party Expands – Finally, a bonus prediction for Disneyland (which doesn’t get its own post of predictions since it seems unlikely much else will be different from last year). After over a decade of rumors, Disney Merriest Nites debuted at Disneyland last year. This separately ticketed, limited-capacity Christmas party at Disneyland was held on 5 nights throughout the holiday season, on slow dates in November and December. It was basically the same concept as the Disneyland After Dark events.
Our expectation is that this event expands, both in terms of event dates and substance, inching closing to being the Christmas counterpart to Oogie Boogie Bash. It’s doubtful that Disney will go that far with it in year 2 as the Christmas season is typically busy, but ~10 dates might make sense. As for what it’ll add…that’s anyone’s guess. A special stage show or unique fireworks might make sense.
Ultimately, those are some of my predictions for the Christmas season at Walt Disney World, not necessarily what’ll be announced during Halfway to the Holidays. Disney could start with vague details and a reveal that Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is returning, while teasing more to come in the future.
Personally, I think that’s unlikely. With some degree of economic slowdown on the horizon and consumer sentiment starting to slump already, it makes much more sense to announce as much as possible now and release tickets ASAP. Disney might want to get those Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party ticket purchases locked-in before consumers start to rethink their spending.
Now that I’ve made my Halfway to the Holidays predictions…what are yours? Think Walt Disney World will announce the return of everything that was missing from Christmas last year? What about Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party v. Disney Very Merriest After Hours? Think any of this will NOT be announced? What are your thoughts on ticket prices? Will your family be buying or sitting out the Christmas festivities? Are you excited for Christmas 2022 at WDW, DLR, or DCL? Do you agree or disagree with our perspective on this? 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!