The annual Christmas and New Years Events at Disney Theme Parks have been a tradition since the first event, called “Christmas Around The World” was held at Disneyland in 1955. Here is an overview of the many events that celebrate the holidays.
Part of the traditions at “The Merriest Place On Earth” includes a giant sixty-foot tall tree (which as of 2008 became an artificial tree) at the hub of Main Street USA and decor all through the park. In place of the regular parade is “A Christmas Fantasy”, the “spiritual successor” as it were to the old “Fantasy on Parade” and the fireworks show is replaced by “Believe... In Holiday Magic” featuring a magical snowfall finale. In addition, it’s a small world shows off a special holiday layout which in 2011 will include a new "gingerbread house" effect, and The Haunted Mansion Holiday, featuring characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas continues from Halloween. “Believe...” was not held in 2005 due to Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary, however the magical snowfall was added to the “Remember” fireworks show that year. A thrice nightly show “Wintertime Enchantment”, featuring over 80,000 LED lights that was held at Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. The new lighting was extended onto Main Street USA and integrated into “Believe...” during the playing of “White Christmas” starting in 2008. In 2009, a week was added to the end of the annual holiday events to accommodate fans as Pasadena's Rose Bowl Stadium hosted the 2010 BCS National Championship Game between Texas and Alabama and was repeated for the 2014 game between Florida State and Auburn. New in 2013 at both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom were holiday themed overlays to the Jungle Cruise, renaming them the "Jingle Cruise".
Another Christmas tradition since 1958 is the annual Candelight Processional on Main Street USA. A live choir dressed as a Christmas Tree singing carols to an live orchestra and celebrity readings of the Christmas Story have become standard in California. Between 1998 and 2003, the event was held at the Fantasyland Theatre, but since 2004 has returned to its ancestral home.
At Disney California Adventure, an show called “Santa’s Beach Blast” featured a California version of a Beach Bum Santa taking place until 2007, when it was closed as part of the refurbishment. When the refurb was completed in 2012, a new tannenbaum was added with a holiday overlay at Carthay Circle Theatre/Buena Vista Street, while Cars Land also received a Christmas look. The popular "World of Color" water show has a special winter-themed show since 2013 hosted by Olaf the Snowman of Frozen. Also new in 2013 was "¡Viva Navidad!", a Latin-American infused holiday parade. On New Years’ Eve, a revival of the vintage fireworks show “Fantasy In The Sky” is held at midnight to usher in the new year.
The New Year's Eve fireworks show has been a revival of the classic “Fantasy in the Sky” show, augmented with additional fireworks shot off around the Seven Seas Lagoon at midnight to usher in the New Year. However, this was replaced by a new show timed to the New Years’ Eve Countdown on December 31.
The World Showcase featured “Christmas Around The World”, showcasing holiday traditions from the participating countries along with a nightly light show and tree lighting; the light show was discontinued in 2009.
The annual Candlelight procession is held at the American Gardens Theatre, and features a different celebrity reading the Christmas Story every night. Some of the 2008 celebrities included actor/game show host John O’Hurley, actresses Abagail Breslin and Virginia Madsen, singer Patti LaBelle, award winning Broadway actors Chita Rivera and Brian Stokes Mitchell, Oscar winning actress Marlee Matlin, and TV star Mo'Nique. In addition, the award-winning fireworks show “IlluimiNations” features a holiday theme. On New Year's Eve, a special version of “IllumiNations” ushers in the New Year with fireworks from the countries in World Showcase.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios (née Disney-MGM Studios) showcased the holidays with a holiday layover of the "Stars and Motorcars Parade" titled “Disney’s Hollywood Holly-day Parade”, however there has also been special decor on Hollywood Boulevard. Night time on the Backlot of America features the Osbourne Family Dancing Lights. In 2007 and 2008, the world famous Harlem (New York City) Gospel Choir performed thrice daily until Christmas Day at the Beauty and the Beast Theatre. In addition, there is a scheduled fireworks show at midnight New Year's Eve titled “Lights! Camera! Happy New Year!”.
Special holiday events include the decoration of the Sleeping Beauty Castle in dazzling lights, and special stage shows. Father Christmas (Europe’s name for Santa Claus) holds a meet and greet and was the special guest of a special holiday themed finale of the “Disney’s Once Upon A Dream” 15th Anniversary Parade in 2007 and 2008, as no Christmas parade was held those years. Also, a special Beauty and the Beast-themed shopping village is set up inside Fantasyland.
The 2008 events included lights on Snow White Castle, a special display of the Disney Princesses and Cinderella’s pumpkin coach as “ice figurines” and for the first time, Mickey Mouse’s house decorated for Christmas. A holiday overlay of “Disney on Parade”, retitled “Disney’s Let It Snow! Parade” includes a “magic snowfall” on Main Street. In 2011, Santa Mickey's Toyriffic Street Party was shown on Main Street.