Disneyland will bring back the annual Candlelight Processional that fills the Anaheim theme park each winter with seasonal songs after being forced to cancel the Christmas tradition in 2020 for the first time in decades because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to city permits.
Disneyland filed a permit with Anaheim received on Tuesday, Sept. 28 for the installation of the Candlelight Processional at the Main Street U.S.A. train station, according to city records. The city permit calls for the installation of outdoor steel platforms, audio and show lighting towers and movable folding viewing seats.
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 yearlong coronavirus closure of Disneyland forced the park to cancel the Candlelight Processional in 2020 due to state-mandated restrictions that kept California theme parks shuttered. Across the esplanade, Disney California Adventure reopened without rides or attractions as an extension of the Downtown Disney outdoor mall for shopping and dining during the Christmas 2020 holiday season.
Walt Disney World was also forced to put Epcot’s Candlelight Processional on hiatus in 2020 due to the large crowds the events typically attract.
Disney World has already announced the return of the much longer East Coast version of the Candlelight Processional at Epcot from Nov. 26 through Dec. 30. Epcot will limit the choir and musicians to fully vaccinated employees — leaving guest choirs from community groups and schools out of the 2021 event.
The return of Disneyland’s Candlelight Processional is already cheering fans happy to see the six decade-long tradition back after a difficult year of pandemic cancellations and closures.
“The show was cancelled for the first time in its history last year, but with its sister show already confirmed to return this year to Walt Disney World, it seems appropriate that the long-running annual event is coming home to the Happiest Place on Earth for the holidays,” according to WDW News Today.
Disneyland has not yet announced dates for the West Coast version of Candlelight Processional. If tradition holds — and there’s no guarantee of that with the tradition-busting pandemic — the Candlelight Processional should be held at Disneyland on Saturday, Dec. 4 and Sunday, Dec. 5.
The 600-member candlelight choir typically parades down Main Street U.S.A. on two weekend nights in early December for two performances each night 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 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.
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.
Holding a private event in the middle of a theme park during operating hours presents a number of 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.
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 impacted 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 and see the choir arranged on risers in the shape of a Christmas tree.