At Disneyland, Candlelight Processional is scheduled twice nightly on Saturday, December 1st and Sunday, December 2nd, 2018. This post offers viewing tips for Candlelight Processional and our review of the event at Disneyland, which is held at the Main Street USA Train Station. (Last updated December 1, 2018.)
In contrast to Epcot’s Candlelight Processional performances that are held dozens of times over the course of the Christmas season in an outdoor theater, Disneyland’s Candlelight Processional is held 4 times, total, and is an intimate affair. Also unlike Epcot’s version, Disneyland’s Candlelight Processional is a mostly-private (we’ll get to what that means below) event.
The 45-minute show is a musical retelling of “The First Christmas” story through song and scripture, featuring a mass choir as the centerpiece of the show. The Disneyland Symphony Orchestra, fanfare trumpets, hand bell ringers, and a celebrity narrator will join the choir in this joyous holiday tradition. Disney has stayed totally mum on who will narrate this year. So, we have a prediction, ready for it?
Lin-Manuel Miranda. We predicted Mark Hamill would narrate last year, and we were wrong, so maybe it’ll be him this year?! As for Lin-Manuel Miranda, it makes sense given the release of Mary Poppins Returns and Miranda getting his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame earlier this week. There’s probably a reason Disney has been so quiet about the narrators this year, and it’s likely because they want to make a splashy surprise once the celebrities appear this year for promotional purposes.
Or, we’re totally wrong and Disney is just keeping quiet about the narrators because this is not a ‘public’ event and Disney wants to keep a low profile. Either way, that’s our prediction. Now, let’s move on and cover what occurs during Candlelight Processional at Disneyland.
These celebrities narrate the Christmas story at the Main Street Train Station while the Candlelight mass choir is sings beautiful holiday songs. Disneyland’s Candlelight Processional has been a tradition since 1958, with celebrities like Cary Grant, John Wayne, Dick Van Dyke, Gary Sinise, Kurt Russell, Jon Voight, and James Earl Jones being past narrators. Last year, actresses Geena Davis and Lana Parrilla did the honors of narrating the Disneyland Candlelight Processional.
Disneyland sets up seats for Candlelight Processional, which are reserved for invited guests. These “invited guests” are typically Disneyland VIPs, such as Club 33 members, media, and high-profile Disneyland guests. We have gotten a lot of questions about how to get seats for Candlelight Processional at Disneyland (that’s actually our reason for posting this), but the unfortunate reality is that if you don’t already know how to get seats…you can’t get seats.
There are no dinner packages, no standby line for regular guests, no ticket lottery, nor any means of becoming an invited guest. Because of this, Disneyland does not publicize the event. There are typically not posts on the Parks Blog, social media, or elsewhere until after the event. That’s why info on Disneyland’s Candlelight Processional is so scarce.
Despite this, Candlelight Processional at Disneyland is held during park hours, and at the very front of Disneyland, where it is plainly visible to guests entering the park. This, coupled with the small size of the reserved seating area, means that guests who camp out in Town Square can get a good view of the show. (Additionally, if there are empty seats, Disneyland sometimes allows regular park guests to fill them–but no promises there.)
The thing about this is that some guests camp at the perimeter of the reserved seating area for the entire day on Candlelight Processional days. We’ve rope-dropped Disneyland on these days, and instead of racing to Peter Pan’s Flight and Space Mountain, we’ve seen guests racing to areas at the edge of the reserved seating area.
This is excessive, even by crazed-Disneyland fan standards. We are sharing this info so you know what you’re potentially getting yourself into should you decide to camp out for Candlelight Processional.
In fairness, you can typically show up “only” a couple of hours in advance and still get a decent view of the stage, but it’s not going to be ideal.
Additionally, some of those individuals who camp out early in the day will leave following the first performance of Candlelight Processional, so if you show up towards the end of this, you might be able to wiggle your way into a better position. Again, no guarantees, as most guests who camp out all day will stay for both shows.
One word of warning: Candlelight Processional is held on two busy weekend nights during the Christmas season, which is already a busy time of year at Disneyland. At the front of the park. This means that the crowd in Town Square is basically a restless mob by the time Candlelight Processional rolls around, packed into the public areas like sardines. We would only recommend this to locals with a surplus of time.
If you’re vacationing at Disneyland, this is not a good use of your time. Moreover, if you’re vacationing at Disneyland during the Christmas season and will be visiting the park during either of these days but are not interested in Candlelight Processional, stay away from the front of the park before, during, and shortly after the showtimes. Getting people into and out of Town Square (and even the Hub) is an operational nightmare, and it will take a long time to navigate to/from Main Street.
If you are interested in Candlelight Processional at Disneyland, but not camping out for a spot to view it, the processional does come down the parade route. Guests who line the curb on Main Street shortly before the processional starts will be treated to something beautiful and uniquely “Disneyland.” While we don’t recommend camping out for the show, we do recommend this. It’s a special little moment that you can enjoy without nearly the time commitment.
We did Candlelight Processional a couple of years ago at Disneyland with Kurt Russell as the narrator, and we were blown away. It’s a lavish production that is wonderfully presented, and it felt like an intimate experience that probably still bears a lot in common with the 1958 edition.
We far prefer the Disneyland version to the way it’s performed at Epcot, but the difference is that one has stayed true to its roots while the other has opted for a more guest-friendly offering that tries to accommodate the high level of demand for the show. It’s hard to fault either version for their approach, but it is too bad that there is not a feasible way of having the best of both worlds.
If you are lucky enough to be invited to attend Candlelight Processional at Disneyland, do not pass up the opportunity. It is an incredibly memorable experience. Our only recommendation would be to treat it like the lavish event that it is: get dressed up, have a nice meal at Napa Rose or Carthay Circle Restaurant, and then enjoy Candlelight Processional at Disneyland. It’s perfect for a Date Nite at Disneyland!
Have you ever done Candlelight Processional at Disneyland? Did you have reserved seats or did you camp out? What did you think of the experience? Was it worth it? Any tips to add? Share any other questions or comments you have below!