EPCOT® festivals have settled into a format over a year after the return to their full offerings post-pandemic, and this year's EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays shows how they are consistently some of the best theme park offerings anywhere.
The biggest upgrade to this year's festival is its menu. Though always great, what we felt was a bigger focus on desserts has now been expanded to feature savory dishes consistently on par with the rest of the festivals. Dishes are hearty and flavors are rich, as foods like the pernil and blackened catfish managed to honor holiday traditions while bringing the seasoning and small-meal-size portions the best festival dishes throughout the year have become known for.
Where the food matches what we have come to expect from EPCOT festivals, the drinks push the boundaries with the creativity seen at the spring events. The standard, local beers are present, but so are fun innovations like the frozen hot chocolate martini.
The usual bits of holiday storytelling returns, with characters and musicians spread across World Showcase who bring stories and songs celebrating holidays around the world. It brings back some of our favorite parts of Disney vacations, where live entertainment and education blend to create a destination that feels truly alive.
Shopping booths dot the stretches between food and drink booths, where smaller vendors sell holiday-adjacent wares. The addition of activity beyond food and drink makes the festival feel busy and exciting, providing us with so much to do that we had no issue spending much of our day in World Showcase.
The star of the show remains the Candlelight Processional, and it demands guests schedule a visit to the park on days the show is scheduled to take place. A celebrity narrator delivers the story of Jesus's birth in Bethlehem as a live orchestra, the Voices of Liberty and a selection of cast members accompany with music over the course of 45 minutes. An evolution of a tradition instituted by Walt Disney himself, the various celebrities bring unique elements of their personality to this beautiful, must-see show. The scheduled three showings each night give guests ample opportunity to experience the show, but limited seating means you may have to wait in line for quite some time (and it is more than worth the wait). We recommend timing your World Showcase activities, Lightning Lane times, and dining to fall at the back of World Showcase, between Italy and France, to the evening so you can either keep an eye on the line and hop in when it begins to grow, or simply find your way there once you have wrapped for the afternoon.
We didn't find the ceremony to celebrate any religion in specificity, but rather around the stories and traditions surrounding the Christmas holiday so those who both do and don't celebrate the occasion walk away with something valuable.
It serves as the perfect end—leading into the Harmonious nighttime spectacular and an exclusive holiday show via Spaceship Earth's Beacons of Magic—to another full, wonderful EPCOT festival.