People often associate the Disney brand with extreme secularism. While it is true that the messaging in Disney’s media has been made generic enough to appeal globally to anyone regardless of their worldview, it’s still possible to discover Christian traditions within Disney’s culture.
Possibly the most prominent example of this is the annual Candlelight Processional at Walt Disney World. For over a month, high-profile celebrities are scheduled nightly to read the Christmas story to thousands of people gathered at the park. The event runs from Nov 29-Dec 30, 2019 and each evening there are three processionals (5:00, 6:45 and 8:15 pm). The show features a live orchestra, a choir and a celebrity narrator who tells the Christmas story. Check out this example of the processional from last year led by Moana actress Auli’l Cravahlo:
Here’s the schedule of this year’s celebrity narrators:
- Ming-Na Wen – 11/29-12/1
- Neil Patrick Harris – 12/2-12/5
- Whoopi Goldberg – 12/6-12/7
- Isabella Rossellini – 12/8-12/10
- Chita Rivera – 12/11-12/12
- Gary Sinise – 12/13-12/15
- Pat Sajak – 12/16-12/18
- Warwick Davis – 12/19-12/21
- Steven Curtis Chapman – 12/22-12/24
- Edward James Olmos – 12/25-12/26
- Marlee Matlin – 12/27-12/28
- Lisa Ling – 12/29-12/30
You can also experience the power of this event at the Candlelight Ceremony at Disneyland in California on Main Street, but the park only hosts the event two nights, Dec 7-8, 2019. This year’s narrator for the Disneyland event has not yet been named, but last year it was hosted by Chris Pratt who is a shining example of a massive celebrity who has a committed relationship with Christ.
At Walt Disney World’s Epcot, the Bible will be read by a wide array of celebrities. Some, like Steven Curtis Chapman and Gary Sinise, have been very open about their faith in Christ over the years. Others, like Neil Patrick Harris and Lisa Ling actually openly do not identify as Christian, and yet… there they will be at Walt Disney World boldly reading the Bible.
Christmas is an interesting holiday. In our culture, no other holiday is celebrated with as much energy, excitement and investment of resources. As America is experiencing a growing secularization, there seems to be no waning interest in celebrating Jesus’ birth. Culturally, we love gathering to relive the story of a virgin birth, a mighty King who appeared completely weak, a power that instinctually drew certain people to Jesus’ bedside while the baby appeared utterly common and invisible to others.
The nativity story, coupled with the cozy warm memories of being with our loved ones at Christmas, results in a powerful magnetic pull; this is why people who don’t believe in Jesus will still gather by the thousands to hear the Bible read aloud at Walt Disney World. Non-believers are often most open to letting the gospel into their hearts during this holiday season.
In a theme park with the best and most distracting attractions in the world, when even an atheist takes the stage to read the Bible’s nativity story, thousands of people will stop, listen and be moved; this is the remarkable power the Gospel has over us. If you’re able to take your family to the Disney parks to be blessed with this Biblical message, we’re quite sure that it will be one of the most powerful Christmas memories you’ll ever experience.