26 November 2012

Lore of the season



We tend to fall into a lot of traps when we think of holidays around Walt Disney World. First, we are almost immediately drawn to the pageantry and party found at the Magic Kingdom and the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. As for Epcot, the overwhelming desire is to take part in the gorgeous tradition of the Candlelight Processional or the awesome display of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth paired with its bonus finale. However, Epcot offers up a much more human experience in the storytellers found throughout World Showcase.

The first thought of those who visit the storytellers is that this is going to be the tale of Santa Claus told by a horde of St. Nics in varying garb with a few twists on the Christmas story. If guests happen upon Pere Noel in France or Father Christmas in the UK as their first and only glimpse of these storytellers, the feeling is that this is absolutely a very narrow tale of Christmas. To get a the true depth of this November and December Epcot event though, guests need look no further than the name of the festivities, Holidays Around the World.

The Christmas Story is available throughout World Showcase to be sure. From the pavilions listed above, to the Three Kings found in Mexico, the story of Santa searching for Christmastime in Canada, the first Christmas tree is found with Helga in Germany, and even tales of the mischievous gnome, Julenissen, can be found in Norway, Christmas narratives are everywhere. They tug on the heartstrings of our memories and are filled with bits of history, literature and folktales. Yet, there are plenty of other tales to listen and learn from.

A majority of cultures around the world have late fall or winter celebrations that focus on the rebirth or marking the passage of time through the long dark months. These celebrations often focus on community and family, and are just as critical to the telling of the human drama that fills World Showcase. In China and Japan, the New Year is presented by the Monkey King and the story of the Daruma doll, respectively, the celebrations of Ramadan and Ashura come from Taarji in Morocco, and the American Adventure, while home to Santa and Mrs. Claus, also shares the tales and traditions of Kwanzaa and Chanukkah.

No matter what your traditional, religious, or cultural leanings are in the winter months, there is so much more to be gleamed from the storytellers of Epcot’s Holidays Around the World. For me, hearing the tales from half a world away, stories filled with tidbits that echo of my own holiday traditions, remind me of just how close we all are to one another, and how our differences make us stronger as individuals. It is this thought that drives me to listen to the stories of a letter from a little girl to Pere Noel and then to continue on and feel the drum beats from Taarji.

While it is crucial to remember who we are and what makes our holidays spectacular, whether it is dancing lights, ice castles, or special fireworks, it is just as instrumental to celebrate with the world around us. Thankfully, Epcot understands this, and gives us a world of holidays to revel in each winter!

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