Epcot International Festival of the Holidays 2019
Sadly, the most recent edition of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival has come to a close. November 23rd marked the final day for 2019. Thankfully, it’ll be back next August. However, Disney already has the next Epcot event ready to start. Here’s everything that you need to know about the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays opening this week.
A Holiday Celebration
Independent of religious opinions, everyone realizes that the six-week period from Thanksgiving through the end of the year is the holiday season. It’s the time when Disney theme parks go overboard on lights and decorations, delivering the most festive of all park experiences to guests.
For many years now, Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members have celebrated the holidays at the parks. It’s not coincidental that the DVC points chart charges the most points during the Twelve Days of Christmas and Thanksgiving. Many of us flock to Disney for an unforgettable December visit.
At Epcot, a recurring holiday event has entertained guests for many years. Formerly, the park hosted Holidays Around the World, but we’ve known it by a different name since 2016. The Epcot International Festival of the Holidays represents the final opportunity to enjoy limited time food kitchens and purchase limited-edition merchandise.
For 2019, the festival runs from November 29th through December 30th. Yes, it actually ends the day before New Year’s Eve this time. Disney’s done this to create room for some New Year’s events. It also gives cast members time to prep for the 2020 Epcot International Festival of the Arts, which starts on January 17th, 2020.
While the other events, particularly the one in the next section, are lovely, the Holiday Kitchens are the end-all, be-all of the Festival of the Holidays. At these kiosks, you’ll sample international dishes that run the gamut. Virtually every major kind of holiday cuisine has a presence at the event.
Disney has advertised 13 Holiday Kitchens for 2019. Many of them reflect international pavilions at the World Showcase. At Las Posadas, you’ll listen to a mariachi band play while you sample Tamal de Pollo and finish with Horchata Cheesecake for dessert. Meanwhile, the Tuscany Holiday Kitchen serves La Genovese and Panettone Mignon.
All of the Holiday Kitchens serve some combination of entrees, adult beverages, holiday beverages, and desserts. Many of the entrees qualify as snacks on the Disney Dining Plan, giving you a chance to maximize the value of your entitlements. For guests traveling without a dining plan, the dishes are almost all under $10. You’ll struggle to find a better deal at Walt Disney World.
Here’s the complete list of Food Kitchens for 2019:
- Bavaria Holiday Kitchen
- American Holiday Table
- Yukon Holiday Kitchen
- Feast of the Three Kings
- Holiday Sweets & Treats
- L’Chaim! Holiday Kitchen
- Le Marché de Noël Holiday Kitchen
- Sapphire Holiday Kitchen
- Tuscany Holiday Kitchen
- Shanghai Holiday Kitchen
- Shi Wasu Holiday Kitchen
- Las Posadas Holiday Kitchen
The Parks Blog has thoughtfully published a Foodie Guide. Read it at your own peril. The descriptions and pictures will make you hungry enough to blow your diet. I mean, I’d never heard of Warm Caramel Stuffed Salted Pretzel with Soft-serve Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce before today. Now, my primary purpose in life is to eat this dessert. That’s what the Holiday Kitchens do to DVC members. They get us hooked on fantastical holiday flavors.
All about the Candlelight Processional
The Candlelight Processional at Epcot doesn’t technically fall under the Festival of the Holidays umbrella. Very few guests realize this fact, though. The event coincides with the festival dates because it’s also a holiday-related event at Epcot’s World Showcase.
Each night, gifted musicians perform holiday music while a celebrity narrator ties together the segments. This person recounts details of the Nativity Story, and it’s an important job. In fact, the first person ever to host a Candlelight Processional was Walt Disney. He performed at the first event in 1958, which means that it’s 61 years old.
Over the years, the Candlelight Processional has evolved into a vast undertaking. A 50-piece orchestra performs classic songs like Hark the Herald Angels Sing and O Come, All Ye Faithful. It’s a mesmerizing show that Epcot hosts three times each evening at 5:00 PM, 6:45 PM, and 8:15 PM.
Despite the high volume of performances, you’ll still struggle to get tickets. It’s rare that this event isn’t sold out. Thankfully, Disney sells dining packages that guarantee reserved seats at each show. You will pay a premium for these combo Table Service meal/Candlelight Processional performances, though.
You can evaluate the prices here. The Disney Dining Plan has worked for these packages in the past, but I can’t make any promises about 2019 yet.
Here’s the list of celebrity narrators for this year’s Festival of the Holidays:
- Ming-Na Wen
- November 29 through December 1
- Neil Patrick Harris
- December 2 through December 5
- Whoopi Goldberg
- December 6 and 7
- Isabella Rossellini
- December 8 through 10
- Chita Rivera
- December 11 through 12
- Gary Sinise
- December 13 through 15
- Pat Sajak
- December 16 through 18
- Warwick Davis
- December 19 through 21
- Steven Curtis Chapman
- December 22 through 24
- Edward James Olmos
- December 25 and 26
- Marlee Matlin
- December 27 and 28
- Lisa Ling
- December 29 and 30
I recognize that you can’t alter your travel dates at this point. However, I do feel compelled to say that Neil Patrick Harris and Edward James Olmos are renowned for their Candlelight Processional narrations. If you’re on the fence about which dates to go, aim for those if possible.
Holiday Cookie Stroll
Passports embody everything phenomenal about Epcot festivals. You pick up a stamp book and then attempt to fill in each empty spot in it. During the Festival of the Holidays, you’ll want to take a Holiday Cookie Stroll.
During this activity, you’re searching for cookie stamps, which you’ll receive as a reward for grabbing the right cookies. Actually, the cookie itself is the reward. The stamp is just a happy bonus. Disney will even provide an additional prize for your effort.
Once you’ve completed your stamp book, visit the Sweets & Treats Holiday Kitchen. A cast member there will hook you up with a free Santa Mickey Sugar Cookie! Effectively, you buy five unique cookies at specific locations, and then the sixth cookie is free.
The locations for the stamps are:
- Bavaria Holiday Kitchen at the Germany Pavilion Linzer Cookie
- American Holiday Table at the America Pavilion Gingerbread Cookie
- Yukon Holiday Kitchen at the Canada Pavilion Peppermint Pinwheel Cookie
- Feast of the Three Kings near the Mexico Pavilion Chocolate Crinkle Cookie
- L’Chaim Holiday Kitchen between the Morocco and France Pavilions Black-and-White Cookie
When you’re ready to begin, you should visit Holiday Markets first. Here, you’ll find a new item on sale. The Cookie Stroll Cookie Jar will store all of the specialty cookies that you acquire during your stroll. It’s a souvenir that will remind you of your passport triumph! Actually, if you’re like me, it’ll remind you of those delicious cookies that you ate, especially the Peppermint Pinwheel.
The final aspect of the Festival of the Holidays requires the most speculation. Disney keeps its exclusive holiday merchandise a carefully guarded secret until the last possible minute.
The Parks Blog hasn’t revealed any new gear yet. However, we know from past experience with recent festivals that the stores have ramped up the amount of Disney gear that’s available only during the event.
Disney has indicated that the following stores will sell unique Festival of the Holidays merchandise:
- Mexico – Plaza de los Amigos
- Norway – The Fjording
- Outpost – Reinhard Herzog
- Germany – Die Weihnachts Ecke and Der Teddybar
- Italy – Il Bel Cristallo
- The American Adventure
- France – La Signature and Plume et Palette
- United Kingdom – The Tea Caddy
- Canada – Northwest Mercantile
Which kinds of items are available? Disney states that you will find:
- Adult Long-Sleeve Tee
- Spirit Jersey
- Light Bulb Crossbody Bag
- Light Bulb Mug
- Chip ‘n Dale Ornament
- Cookie Stroll Cookie Jar
In past years, Disney’s also surprised guests with unexpected, must-own products. The Parks Blog may reveal the new stuff this week, but you might want to wait until you’re at Epcot anyway. The gear’s a surprise when you do that!