by Chris Lucas
December 21, 2020
In 1955, Disneyland’s first year of operation, Walt’s budget for Christmas decorations was very slim, so he converted the bandstand in the town square into the “Disneyland Christmas Bowl” and brought in a volunteer choir to sing holiday tunes in December.
This became so popular that each year Walt would add to the festivities. In 1958, he introduced a special candlelight processional down Main Street to the choir’s bandstand.
Another addition was celebrity narrators reading Gospel passages about the Nativity. Walt was very careful to omit any references to specific religions at Disneyland, but he made an exception for this event, since the words were necessary to explain the holiday.
In 1971, the processional made its debut at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, where it stayed until moving to EPCOT in 1994.
Each year celebrity narrators are still chosen to accompany the candlelight choir and orchestra, just as they were in the beginning. They come from all areas of entertainment and have ranged from people like John Wayne in the 1950s to Whoopi Goldberg - one of the most frequent narrators - in the 21st Century.
The ceremony took a pause in 2020, but clips of past events can be viewed online (see above).
Chris Lucas is the author of Top Disney: 100 Top Ten Lists of the Best of Disney, from the Man to the Mouse and Beyond.
On the PRESS CLUB C Podcast, enjoy Ray’s discussion with Chris Lucas about his career as an actor, author and Disney expert. Tune in right here!