This weekend marks the beginning of the Epcot Holiday Story Tellers. This was a holiday attraction that we were not sure we wanted to bring our kids to see. Not because we wouldn’t be interested in the stories, we were worried if it would cause our kids to not believe in Santa after hearing what other cultures did. This however was not the case. Our kids ages, 6, 5, 3 and 1, loved it. Here is a not so brief description as what each story entails.
Walking around World Showcase the proper way, we will start in Mexico. In Mexico the three Wise Men tell the story of how the Mexican people celebrate the holidays. They begin by telling the tradition of how Mexican children will go house to house searching for someone to take them in like Mary and Joseph did. The three Wise Men then tell of their journey to see the baby Jesus and how traditions began for people to celebrate in Mexico. The story tellers explained that during the journey of the three Wise Men, children would leave their shoes out for the three Wise Men to fill with gifts symbolizing the gifts for the baby Jesus. They continue by telling a story of why the poinsettia is red and is recognized as a symbol for Christmas.
Next we are off to Norway where the story of Julenissen is told. Julenissen is a gnome who is the Norwegian spirit of Christmas although he is a little mischievous. This creates some laughs during the story tellers explanation of Christmas in Norway since Julenissen joins in to “help” with the story. In Norway the Christmas tree is traditionally kept in a separate room and on Christmas Eve after a big feast the children get to open the door and see the tree decorated with their presents under it. The children open their presents on Christmas Eve and the family attends Church on Christmas Day. On December 26th, they have a second Christmas. On this day the people of Norway visit friends and family to celebrate.
In China the Monkey King tells his story in which he is punished for his selfishness. However he is given a second chance and learns that giving and helping others leads him to the path of enlightenment. The Monkey King explains that there are many different cultures and they celebrate the season in different ways. By learning the ways of others you will become enlightened as he did and understand happiness. In the Chinese culture they take the lessons learned and celebrate them during the New Year.
The next stop is Germany where we learn about the Christmas tree. The Christmas tree began when a Minister was walking through the woods thinking of his Christmas sermon. During his walk the stars shined so bright onto a snow covered tree it reminded him of the star under which Jesus was born. He cut the tree down and brought it into his home. They put candles on the end of the branches and lit them to symbolize the star. The story teller also explains that Christmas is a time for miracles and that anything can happen this time of year.
Over in Italy the story of La Befana is told. La Befana is a Christmas witch who is the giver of gifts. La Befana’s story begins when the three Wise Men are passing her house and pointing to the star of the great King. The men were excited and asked La Befana to join them in their journey, La Befana refused. She is then approached by a Shepard who told her to go and she refused again. When La Befana heard angel sing of the miracle she knew she had to go to Bethlehem. La Befana found a doll to present as a gift to the baby Jesus. When she left her house she found that the star in the sky was gone and she did not know where to look. Now La Befana gives a gift to all the children in hopes that one of them is the baby Jesus.
In the United States two stories are told, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is the celebration of the harvest and family which lasts for seven days. As told by the story teller, Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday it is a cultural and spiritual celebration of unity and family and a celebration of life. The story of Hanukkah is a celebration of family. The story teller explained the significance of the Menorah, symbolizing the eight day miracle of the burning oil. Another story explained the significance of the Dradle. The Dradle was used in a children’s game to teach Jewish children Hebrew when it was forbidden.
In Japan the story of the Dharma is told to celebrate the New Year. The Dharma was a Monk who faced many struggles and climbed a mountain to meditate for nine years. To honor Dharma, children are given a Dharma doll with no eyes painted on it. The tradition is, you make a wish and paint one eye on the Dharma, when the wish comes true you paint the second eye on. If the wish doesn’t come true the child tries again next year. This is to teach children the patients of the Dharma and to signify the beginning of a new year and a fresh start. There is a large celebration of family and friends and a reflection of the past year.
Next is Morocco where a drummer tells the traditions of Ramadan. Ramadan lasts a month where people fast during the day and spend the time filling themselves with prayer and not food. In the evening each night a large meal is served. At the end of the month, there is a large festival with music and dancing. The story teller also talks about celebrating the new year with family and friends.
Over in France Pierre Noel tells Christmas traditions. Pierre Noel is the brother of Santa Clause who is the gift giver of France. In France there is a celebration of family and everyone gathers for food and singing on Christmas Eve after attending church services. Christmas Day is filled with excitement as children awake to see what Pierre Noel has left under the tree and in their shoes left in front of the hearth.
In the UK Father Christmas tells of English traditions of the holiday. Stating that many modern day traditions started in England such as Christmas caroling, hanging mistletoe, Christmas cards and bell ringing.
Lastly in Canada a lumberjack with a white beard comes to tell the tale of a Canadian Christmas and it’s diversity. Due to the fact that the Canadian population has predominantly English and French cultures many of these traditions are celebrated. While explaining this, the lumberjack sits down and begins to change his boots and puts a extra articles of clothes on including a red coat, white gloves and hat becoming Santa Clause. The reason for this is to show the children that Santa can be anywhere and to behave all the time.
In my opinion these stories are one of the highlights to Disney World during the holidays and should not be missed.
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