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Kenversations: Expanding Holiday Season at Disneyland Park
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by Ken Pellman (archives)
March 23, 2006
Ken looks at the history of the holidays at Disneyland and a fan DVD that celebrates them - Holiday Time at Disneyland.

Kenversations™ - Expanding Holiday Season at Disneyland Park
Featuring Ken's Review of the "Holiday Time at Disneyland" DVD.

There was a time when the holiday seasons at Disneyland Park ran from Thanksgiving through New Years. Main Street, U.S.A. was decorated, there was a giant tree placed where Town Square met the rest of Main Street, and a pair of white Christmas trees in the castle moat. There was a very extensive parade, called the Very Merry Christmas Parade, featuring live horses and live bands, and the first half of the parade featured floats and characters from classic Disney animation, and the second half featured more traditional Christmas/holiday setting and characters.

In 1984, the County Bears got a holiday special program that returned every year for most of the rest of the life of the attraction.

Sometimes, there would be a holiday-themed live show at the Small World Meadows Amphitheater, a venue commonly known by the name of the nighttime experience that was there in the mid and late 1980s – Videopolis. The place was later upgraded and is now known as the outdoor Fantasyland Theater - not to be confused with the original Fantasyland Theater, which had been indoors and in a different location. In 1991, a particularly Disney-themed holiday show, "Mickey's Nutcracker", performed there.

People could also line up got get pictures with Santa, or listen to the Dickens Carolers, or listen to the heralders blast out traditional Christmas music from the castle or from the Main Street railroad station.

One holiday tradition in high demand and short supply through the years has been the decidedly Christian Candlelight Procession, which only happens one weekend out of the year in the original Disney park. Since it happens only one weekend and isn't something a significant number of park guests will get to experience, it isn’t marketed as something to draw people to the Resort for the holidays.

Somewhere along the way, perhaps 1996 (certainly not 1986, as one website I came across said), the Very Merry Christmas Parade was replaced by the Christmas Fantasy Parade, which was completely holiday themed, shorter, and had no live animals and no live bands other than the marching toy soldiers. Still, it was a Christmas parade.

The holiday season was contained to those shows and the one parade, and the decorations on Main Street for many years – though the white trees in the castle moat went away after being toppled in the wind one year.

However, in 1997, Disneyland management discovered something about Disneyland guests – they can't get enough of the holiday spirit while visiting the Happiest Place on Earth. This was discovered when the Small World attraction received a temporary holiday retheming, which proved to be wildly popular. It has been brought back every year, complete with wreaths on the boats, an elaborate display of "Christmas" lights on the exterior, holiday traditions from around the world inside, and holiday music intertwined with that familiar Sherman Brothers tune.

The weeks containing Christmas Day and New Years Eve were already the busiest weeks of the year, and so the logical conclusion was to make the most of that by bringing the rest of the park into the season and making the season itself longer. Now, the season goes parkwide at the start of November. Actually, when you consider the Nightmare Before Christmas overlay the Haunted Mansion has been featuring every year since the 2001 premiere, part of the park gets into the season in October.

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