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    Candlelight Processional returns to Disneyland for the holidays
    • October 26, 2023

    The annual Candlelight Ceremony with a 600-member choir that fills Disneyland with seasonal songs and draws thousands of holiday fans anxious to get into the Christmas spirit will return to the Anaheim theme park during the first weekend in December.

    Invited guests will be able to enjoy the Candlelight Processional at Disneyland on Dec. 2 and 3 at 5:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. each evening, according to Disneyland officials.

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    While the Candlelight Processional can be viewed by Disneyland visitors, the park does very little to promote the event, which creates traffic problems near the front entrance.

    Expect general admission and annual passholder reservations to disappear quickly for Saturday, Dec. 2 and Sunday, Dec. 3 as Candlelight fans make plans to attend the annual event.

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    The Candlelight Processional features dozens of choir groups who gather on a stage in front of Disneyland’s train station to bring the story of Christmas to life. The annual event is attended by hundreds of community members who fill a seating area set up each holiday season in Disneyland’s Town Square.

    The crowded and busy special event tends to jam foot traffic near the main entrance to the park. Backstage passageways behind the Main Street U.S.A. shops are typically opened during the Candlelight performances to ease congestion in the high-traffic area.

    The Herald Trumpeters play during Disneyland’s Candlelight Ceremony from atop the Main Street U.S.A. station of the Disneyland Railroad. (Photo by Mark Eades, Contributing Photographer)

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    The Disneyland Candlelight Ceremony tradition began in 1958 as a way for Walt Disney to show his gratitude to the Orange County community that was home to his first theme park.

    Each year, the singers include Disney employees and members of local community choirs performing along with a live orchestra, handbell players and fanfare trumpeters.

    Chris Hemsworth, known on-screen as the character of “Thor” in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, narrates the story of the first Christmas during Disneyland’s Candlelight Ceremony, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017. (Photo by Mark Eades, Contributing Photographer)

    A celebrity narrator, kept a surprise until the first show, tells the story of the first Christmas between songs.

    Past narrators have included Cary Grant, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, Dick Van Dyke, Chris Hemsworth and James Earl Jones.

    Reserved seating is limited to a few hundred invited guests that include community members, civic leaders, media representatives and VIPs.

    Nancy Sulahian conducts the 50-piece orchestra, and a choir of nearly 600 voices during Disneyland’s Candlelight Ceremony, an annual tradition at the theme park during the holiday season since the 1950s. (Photo by Mark Eades, Contributing Photographer)

    Holding a private event in the middle of a theme park during operating hours presents a number of logistical challenges for Disneyland — from attraction operations to show scheduling to crowd management.

    Crews set up the Candlelight stage beneath the Main Street train station and arrange hundreds of folding chairs in Town Square between Disneyland City Hall and the Opera House.

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    In years past, the Candlelight ceremony has limited the attraction hours of the Disneyland Railroad, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Jungle Cruise and the Main Street vehicles. Similarly, shop hours around Town Square, including the Mad Hatter and Disney Gallery, have been affected by the ceremony.

    Disneyland does little to promote the Candlelight Processional to uninvited guests, but it is possible to catch the shows if you don’t have reserved tickets.

    Candlelight fans have been known to wait all day for the limited standing room-only spots behind the seating area. For those not willing to wait, it’s possible to hear the ceremony along Main Street USA and see the choir arranged on risers in the shape of a Christmas tree.

    ​ Orange County Register