Disneyland Candlelight with choir

Disneyland’s Candlelight Processional 2023

The Candlelight Processional is a beloved Christmas tradition at Disneyland that dates back to 1958. This spectacular holiday event features a retelling of the Christmas story through music, scripture readings, and celebrity narrators. For two nights in early December, the Candlelight Processional fills Disneyland with Christmas spirit and magic.

A Brief History of the Candlelight Processional

The Candlelight Processional originated at Disneyland in 1958 under the direction of Dr. Charles Hirt, the Director of Choral Music at USC. Walt Disney wanted to show his appreciation to the people in the Orange County community who supported Disneyland, so he started this Christmas tradition. The first event featured a small choir of Disneyland employees and local students dressed in Dickensian costumes who walked down Main Street singing carols. In 1960, the first celebrity narrator, actor Dennis Morgan, joined the festivities. Over the years, the Candlelight Processional grew into a larger production with a mass choir, live orchestra, and notable narrators. In 1971, the Candlelight Processional expanded to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, before moving to Epcot in 1994. The Disneyland version remains more intimate than the one at Epcot, with only four performances over two nights.

When and Where Does It Take Place?

The 2023 Candlelight Processional will occur on December 2nd and 3rd at 5:30pm and 7:45pm each evening. The location is the Train Station on Main Street USA in Disneyland Park. Guests gather and line the streets of Main Street to view the performance.

Blue lights with chairs

What to Expect at the Performance

The Candlelight Processional is a 45-minute musical and narrative performance that retells the Christmas story. The star elements of the show include:

  • Mass Choir – A choir of hundreds of performers made up of Disneyland Cast Members, community groups, schools, and church choirs.
  • Live Orchestra – A full 50-piece orchestra provides accompaniment during the performance.
  • Celebrity Narrator – A special celebrity guest tells the story of Christmas and reads passages from the Bible to transition between songs.
  • Christmas Carols – Traditional Christmas hymns and carols are sung by the choir and soloists.
  • Candlelight – Choir members process down Main Street carrying lit candles, filling the area with a warm, holiday glow.

In addition to the choir, orchestra, and narrator, other musical elements include a fanfare trumpet ensemble and handbell ringers. It is a full multimedia performance that engages the senses with music, light, and storytelling.

Tips for Viewing the Candlelight Processional

Viewing the Candlelight Processional can be challenging since seating is extremely limited. Here are some tips to get the best experience:

  • Arrive early – Stake out a good viewing spot at least 2-3 hours in advance. Prime spots fill up quickly.
  • Dress warmly – December nights can get chilly, so wear layers and bring blankets.
  • Avoid the front – The Train Station area is reserved seating, so don’t waste time waiting there. Focus on Town Square and Main Street.
  • Be respectful – Keep noise to a minimum during the performance. Silence phones and avoid blocking other’s views.
  • Have backup plans – Be flexible on which showtime you want to see in case one fills up too much. Also be ready to adjust your viewing location.
  • Enjoy the atmosphere – Even if you don’t have the perfect view, take in the beautiful atmosphere and music all around Main Street.

2023 Celebrity Narrator

The celebrity narrator for the 2023 Candlelight Processional has not yet been announced. Disney likes to keep it a surprise reveal close to the event dates. Some notable narrators from previous years include:

  • Dick Van Dyke
  • Cary Grant
  • Angela Lansbury
  • John Stamos
  • Gary Sinise
  • Neil Patrick Harris
  • Jon Favreau
  • Viola Davis

No matter who the 2023 narrator is, they will surely provide an entertaining and emotional reading to accompany the performance.

Choir with lights and star

Musical Selections Performed

The Candlelight Processional features a mix of traditional Christmas carols, classical pieces, and holiday pop music. While the set list varies slightly each year, here are some songs that are frequently performed:

  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  • Joy to the World
  • Silent Night
  • O Come All Ye Faithful
  • O Holy Night
  • The First Noel
  • Carol of the Bells
  • Do You Hear What I Hear?
  • The Little Drummer Boy
  • Angels We Have Heard on High

The music and lyrics tell the story of the nativity, along with excerpts read from the Bible. It builds through the performance to a powerful finale.

The Processional Down Main Street

A highlight of the show is the candlelight processional down Main Street USA. At the start of the show, members of the choir march down Main Street carrying lit candles. The choir processes two-by-two in even rows, with the lights of Main Street dimmed so that the candlelight shines bright. The processional fills the street with a warm, magical glow. It creates a beautiful atmosphere and sets the tone for the rest of the performance. Seeing Main Street illuminated by hundreds of candlelights while Christmas music plays is an experience that gives you chills. It kicks off the Candlelight Processional in the most festive and elegant way.

Booking Tips and Reserved Seating

Unfortunately, the Candlelight Processional does not offer any reserved seating for regular park guests. All seating in the viewing area in front of the Train Station is reserved for invited guests, Club 33 members, and others selected by Disney. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a good spot to watch! Follow the viewing tips above to stake out a prime spot on Main Street or Town Square. You’ll be able to see and hear the show without an actual seat. If you or your group is invited to attend as part of the reserved seating, be sure to dress nicely and be on time. You’ll have an up close, unobstructed view of the performance.

Disneyland Candlelight with choir

Is It Worth Attending?

Attending the Candlelight Processional requires effort – waking up early, waiting for hours in a crowded area, and standing through the long performance. However, nearly everyone who experiences it says it was well worth it! The stunning vocals from the mass choir, beautiful arrangements of Christmas classics, celebrity narrator, and overall production make it an incredibly moving performance. Seeing the candlelit processional down Main Street is a memory you’ll cherish. So although it requires some patience and planning, the Candlelight Processional should be on every Disneyland holiday visitor’s bucket list. It’s a can’t-miss part of the Christmas season at the parks!

History and Behind-the-Scenes Facts

  • Walt Disney personally oversaw the first Candlelight Processional in 1958 and read the story of Christmas from the Bible himself.
  • Over 600 performers take part in the Candlelight Processional at Disneyland each year.
  • Choirs have to apply and submit audition tapes to participate. Competition is fierce to get selected.
  • Dick Van Dyke has narrated the most times with a total of 10 appearances between 1976 and 2006.
  • Disney Legend (and Walt’s older brother) Roy O. Disney narrated in 1972 and was the first non-celebrity to have the honor.
  • The Candlelight Processional expanded outside Disneyland and Walt Disney World to Tokyo Disneyland in 1983 and Disneyland Paris in 1992.
  • Even celebrity narrators are amazed at the scale of the production. Neil Patrick Harris called it “one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen at a Disney Park.”
  • In 2021, Disneyland updated the Candlelight Processional stage and viewing area with new stairs, railings, and accessibility.
  • Cast Members performing in the choir rehearse for months ahead of time to prepare for their big performance.

The Candlelight Processional has decades of history and tradition behind it. Part of what makes it so special is all the work and care that goes into staging this enormous production each holiday season.

At night

Why You Should Experience the Candlelight Processional

The Candlelight Processional deserves a spot on every Disney fan’s bucket list. Here are just some of the reasons it’s a must-see:

  • It’s an event that Walt Disney himself started and oversaw back in 1958. You’re experiencing a piece of Disney history.
  • The musical performances and production quality are unparalleled. The choir, orchestra, and soloists are incredibly talented.
  • Christmas carols sound more magical when performed in the charming setting of Main Street USA.
  • The celebrity narrators add extra excitement and their readings provide meaningful perspective on the Christmas story.
  • Few Disney experiences can match the sensation of seeing the candlelight processional make its way down Main Street.
  • Attending allows you to soak in the palpable Christmas spirit at the parks. It’s sure to put you in the holiday mood!
  • Having the chance to hear such an elaborate performance of classic Christmas music is special.
  • You’ll leave with lifelong memories of a Disney holiday tradition.

The Candlelight Processional is the kind of event that sticks with you forever. The sights, sounds, and feelings it evokes are unforgettable. It’s a bucket list Disney experience for good reason, so be sure to see it at least once!