Holidays Around The World

Feature Article

This article appeared in the December 19, 2000, Issue #64 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Just like each person has his or her own personality, so does every resort at Walt Disney World. Each has its own distinctive design, style and feel, defined by its decor and furnishings -- its so-called "theme."

The holidays are the perfect occasion for the resorts to express their themes in their own unique ways -- and to ensure that this goes off as flawlessly as possible, Walt Disney World employs a Christmas Decorations staff of more than 20 full-time, year-round cast members, with additional part-time staff added during the holidays!

This staff is responsible for scattering 1,200 Christmas trees throughout Walt Disney World, as well as draping 5.2 miles of garland and decking all the halls with 130 tractor-trailor truckloads of decorations.

Although all parts of the resort are especially lovely this time of year, some of their most creative work can be seen in the resorts.

The Mardi Gras motif of the Port Orleans Resort is carried through its lovely holiday decorations. Here the trees shimmer with ribbons and ornaments in untraditional pinks, purples and blues, punctuated with the white of Pierrot clown masks. (And why these clowns are scary to some folks, I just don't know!) Because this a small moderate (at least until the merger with Dixie Landings is completed), the decorations here are not as grandiiose as at some other resorts -- a few trees in the lobby area, some wreaths and garland here and there, decorated lamp posts in the courtyard leading to the food court and pool areas -- but that doesn't mean the resort is any less festive.

The southwest theme of Coronado Springs is also enhanced by its holiday decorations in muted earthtones. The main lobby's tree, festooned with yellow, peach and soft red balls, white doves and silvery stars, stretches gracefully up to the painted and mosaic tile sky of the dome. Similarly decorated mini-trees line the hallways leading to the resort's food court and nestled in a niche near the kitchens is a small gingerbread village with miniature railroad.

Over at some of the Epcot resorts, the decorations take a more traditional holiday approach, while still retaining each resort's distinctive feel. At the Yacht Club, for example, trees are accented with small sailboats and a quaint, old-fashioned general store is spotlighted in the lobby. Meanwhile, at the Beach Club, poinsettias and artificial snow, as well as a happy snow family, grace the seating area. The Beach Club also features an impressive carousel made of gingerbread, with gilded horses and Disney characters.

Not to be outdone, the Boardwalk also houses a mouthwatering gingerbread creation -- a gazebo held together by snowy royal icing and covered with gingerbread cookies and hard candies. The tree and garlands draped over the fireplace can't be overlooked, though -- barely a bit of green shows through the many old-fashioned whimsical glass ornaments and twinkly lights!

Not surprisingly, the decorations around the rustic Wilderness Lodge and its brand new Villas are more earthy and natural. A multi-story tree fills the space in the Lodge's main lobby that was specifically designed and wired for that purpose, with all needed plugs in the floor. (The Animal Kingdom Lodge, set to open in April 2001, has been designed with Christmas decorations in mind, too.) That main tree, which takes 18 hours to erect and decorate, sports miniature tepees and ornaments with Native American motifs, while smaller trees are detailed with small berry-bearing plants and what else? Antlers! Wreaths accentuate the Lodge's stony walls, and if you look up you're treated to small wildlife displays above the entrances.

Along the monorail, the Polynesian is true-to-tropical form with its laid-back approach to the holidays. While there's no tree amidst the palms and exotic plantings of the lobby, there's an amusing gingerbread workshop that features Santa sleeping in a hammock, being observed by Rudolf, surrounded by elves who are clearly enjoying the warmth of the "tropical paradise."

If there were an award given for most impressive holiday decorations, though, it would have to go to the amazing Grand Floridian, which upholds its reputation for doing everything in grand style. The moment you walk into the lobby, the five-story tree commands your ttention. Festooned with shimmering white lights and sparkling mirrors, the tree dwarfs everything and everyone around it. Up on the mezzanine, a gingerbread doll's house and miniature railroad (complete with Santa pushing a handcar) delights children of every age, who find it difficult to resist taking a swipe of the fluffy frosting. Downstairs, in the full-sized gingerbread house, nearly a replica of the upstairs dollhouse, you can finally buy the sweets and treats that have been tempting you as you've made your way around the resorts.

If you have the time to drive around, the resorts are truly a great way to immerse yourself in not only the holiday spirit, but that attention to detail that makes up the Disney magic!

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Obviously, the resorts aren't the only area of Walt Disney World to celebrate the season. It's well-known that Epcot not only has beautiful holiday displays, but also acknowledges the multi-cultural diversity that makes up our planet by sponsoring "holiday storytellers" in each pavilion around World Showcase.

Linda Eckwerth recently had the chance to enjoy these storytellers for the first time:

Within the past year, I've been very fortunate. I have made several trips to WDW and have had the opportunity to see and experience many of the major highlights that each of the parks, hotels and restaurants have to offer. In a phrase, I have been spoiled!

On my recent trip in December, my friend Deb asked if I would be willing to take photos of the Holiday Storytellers around World Showcase. At first, I gave her a funny, "Bah, humbug!" look, but when I thought about how lucky I have been this past year with my many visits, I reluctantly said, "Sure."

When I met up with some other friends, Tod and Sue, and explained what was on the agenda for the day, they gave me the same look as I had given Deb. Then they laughed and admitted it would be something different. All we really needed to do was take the photo and go on our way.

Well, what a surprise we were in for.

The three of us made our way to Epcot for the 11 a.m. rope drop to World Showcase and immediately headed for Mexico. As the Mexican storytellers, The Three Kings, approached their stage, we were told to move closer. We were the only audience! The entire story took about 10 minutes and the Three Kings were more than willing to pose for photos afterwards.

Upon consulting our guide map, we found that the shows were timed so that we could get to each country just in time to see the storytellers in succession. On we went to to Norway. There we encountered a most delightful Gnome, Julienessen. He was very funny and interacted with the audience the whole time. After Norway, we strolled to China and had to wait for the Monkey King to appear -- for some reason he was running late.

By this time, Tod and Sue were thirsty and went looking for a cold beverage, while I waited for the Monkey King to show. Was I glad I did! Again, I was his only audience for the first few minutes, until Tod and Sue returned, along with a few others. He kept us in stitches with laughter the entire time -- his story made the wait worthwhile. In fact, the three of us talked about him for the rest of the day.

Although the Santa in Germany was not very talkative, we did get some photos and he wished us Merry Christmas -- perhaps we missed his story. By the time we got to Japan, though, we once again had our own private show. The Daruma Doll seller was very entertaining, and talked about how the Japanese celebrate the New Year. Part of the celebration involves the Daruma doll, which has no eyes. You make a wish and paint one eye; if your wish comes true before the end of the year, you get to paint the other eye.

We continued our journey around the World, taking photos and listening to each of the storytellers describe the holidays in their country. What I thought might be a ho-hum morning, ended up being a delightful afternoon that resulted in big smiles on our faces. I would recommend taking a few minutes and catching each of the storytellers if you ever get the chance to visit Epcot during the holiday season. It was more than just educational -- it brought several good belly laughs, too!


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.