Disneyland Candlelight Processional 2023- History, Showtimes, Viewing Tips

The Disneyland Candlelight Processional is held every year during one weekend in early December. The Candlelight Processional is a long held tradition at Disneyland.

The holidays are a magical time to visit Disneyland and the Candlelight Processional only adds to the beauty and wonder of this special season. Our guide includes this year's Candlelight Processional dates, tips and history of this beloved Disneyland tradition.

Disneyland Candlelight Processional 2023 Dates

The 2023 dates haven't been announced yet, you can view the 2022 dates below to get an idea of when it's held which is usually the first weekend in December.

The Candlelight Processional is scheduled this holiday season for December 3rd and 4th, 2022 at 5:30pm and 7:45pm each night. That's only four available times to experience this Christmastime Disneyland tradition.

Disneyland Candlelight Processional 2023 Narrator

The Disneyland Candlelight Processional celebrity 2023 narrator is Viola Davis. See below for a full list of previous celebrity narrators.

Overview of the Disneyland Candlelight Processional

The Disneyland Candlelight Processional is a 45-minute musical retelling of “The First Christmas” located in Towne Square on the steps of the Disneyland Railroad Main Station. It includes song and scripture, mass choir with singers from nearby schools and organizations, Disneyland Symphony Orchestra, fanfare trumpets, and hand bell ringers. Songs performed during the Candlelight Processional include traditional Christmas carols like Deck the Halls, O Come All Ye Faithful, Silent Night, Joy to the World and the Hallelujah Chorus.

Another aspect that adds to the mystery and hype of the Candlelight Processional is the celebrity narrator. Each year, the celebrity narrator remains unknown, usually right up until the sound check on the night of the first performance. Often this person is someone with a Disney blockbuster connection, but can also be a famous or well-respected Disney Legend. In past years, narrators have included Sterling K. Brown, Kurt Russell, Chris Pratt, John Stamos, Dick Van Dyke and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Despite this event not being openly advertised by Disneyland, due to the limited viewing opportunities, the weekend the Candlelight Processional takes place will be some of the busiest nights all holiday season.

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Disneyland Candlelight Processional Viewing

Reserved seats for the Disneyland Candlelight Processional are for a few hundred invited guests only, including VIPs like executives, community members and civic leaders, Club 33 members, and media representatives.

There are no other reserved viewing options for guests outside those that invited only. Nearly ten years ago expensive holiday packages were offered by Disney Parks with seats to the Candlelight Processional, but it is highly unlikely something like this will return. There just is not enough space to allow for the amount of guests that would be interested in the processional.

For guests who have not been gifted a reserved seat, there are a number of ways that you still can participate in this unique and beautiful holiday celebration that I will share with you – but requires more than a dash of magic.

candlelight disneyland processional

Here are some Disneyland Candlelight Processional tips on how to view the performance without a reserved seat, in the standby area:

  • First and foremost, before picking your own standby spot anywhere, ask a Cast Member, or multiple Cast Members throughout your time waiting, if that particular spot is even an option. You do not want to hold a spot for hours when you will just be moved later.
  • Bring a friend or family member to wait with you as you keep your spot reserved so there are options to tag team and get snacks or use the restroom. But make sure your whole group is all there an hour before show time because it will get really crowded and packed in.
  • If you, or someone in your group, is a guest with disabilities, ask a Cast Member for your options but keep in mind this will not guarantee you a viewing location as it is still first come, first served.

Disneyland Candlelight Processional Standby Viewing Tips

  • Be prepared for large groups of people that will go directly to Town Square when Disneyland opens and hold their spot for the entire day. Often people that go this route are determined to spend their park day waiting to see the Candlelight Processional, which we don't recommend, but if you have a group you can swap out spot saving with then it may be doable.
  • If you are interested in finding a spot in the standby area, but are not interested in waiting around all day, on option is to stake out a spot before the second afternoon parade, usually beginning at 3:15pm.
  • Another option is to swoop in right after the first Candlelight Processional performance ends, which will be around 6:15pm. You will then be there for the second performance. You will need to have a spot on Main Street already before the performance ends, this is important because you won't even be allowed to walk near Main Street within an hour of the show ending.

Finding a spot to see the Candlelight Processional will take up a significant part of your day. Main Street will be extremely crowded so if you don't enjoy crowds, this may not be the best option for you.

Candlelight Processional View on Main Street, U.S.A.

If seeing the show is not a high priority, but you are interested in catching a feel for the Disneyland Candlelight Processional, take a seat on the curb anywhere on Main Street shortly before show time. The Candlelight Processional performers will make their way down the parade route beginning at it's a small world into Town Square, as the processional. You will get to experience the spirit of the performance without having to wait for hours in the packed crowd in Town Square. You then have the option to remain there on Main Street to listen to the music and experience the holiday ambiance. Sitting on Main Street is, of all the options, the option I would most highly recommend. You will still need to devote time to getting a spot to be within close enough distance to enjoy the ambiance.

The Candlelight Processional through Main Street into Town Square

Tips to Avoid Disneyland Candlelight Processional

If you'd like to avoid the crowds, your best bet is to stay as far away from the front entrance of the park as you can during the hours of 4pm and 9pm during the Candlelight Processional. Town Square will be packed and you can blissfully take in all the other delightful holiday happenings around the park.

Check out the charming New Orleans Square decorated with beautiful holiday decor and while you're there enjoy a delicious dinner at Cafe Orleans. Another option is to stay out of the Disneyland park altogether and take in all Disneyland California Adventure has to offer for the holidays instead. CarsLand is a must experience if not for Luigi's Joy to the Whirl and Mater's Jingle Jamboree, rethemed CarsLand classic rides festively decorated with seasonal tunes for the holidays only. 

Disneyland Candlelight Processional History

The Disneyland Candlelight Processional has been a tradition since Walt Disney himself walked down Main Street. Under the direction of Dr. Charles Hirt from the University of Southern California, twelve Dickensian carolers made their way around the park to spread joy to guests during the first Christmas season at Disneyland in 1955. The next year it evolved into the Candlelight Processional’s premiere on December 20, 1958 with a 300 member choir.

Dr. Charles Hirt also served as choral director for Disneyland from the late 1950s to the early 1980s. He directed the annual Disneyland Christmas Candlelight Ceremony for 25 years.

First Photo of the Disneyland Candlelight Processional Choir, 1959

In the 1960's, the Candlelight Processional welcomed Dennis Morgan, who read portions of the Biblical Christmas story in between classical Christmas hymns. The tradition continued from there, inviting celebrity narrators each year to serve as master of ceremonies and provide narration for the performance.

Over the decades, the Disneyland Candlelight Processional has stayed true to its roots, with its essence remaining virtually unchanged, giving each performance a sense of nostalgia like no other. Much of the music and narration remains the same year to year, with only small omissions or edits, preserving its ties to Disneyland’s humble beginnings. Much of this continuity can be credited to Dr. Charles Hirt, who was there at the beginning, and directed the Disneyland Candlelight Ceremony for 25 years. That is quite the legacy.

There was a four-year stretch that the Candlelight Processional was held in Fantasyland Theater from 1998 – 2002, but otherwise has remained on the steps of the Disneyland Railroad Main Station and has grown into a majestic classical concert with voices making up the “Living Christmas Tree” choir.

The Candlelight Processional was introduced to Walt Disney World in 1971, starting in Magic Kingdom and then moved to Epcot in 1994, where it continues today.

Epcot Candlelight ProcessionalEpcot Candlelight Processional

There is often confusion between the Candlelight Processional experience at Disneyland and the EPCOT Candlelight Processional in Walt Disney World. Though the two productions have a lot in common, there are some key differences to be aware of.

The EPCOT version of the Candlelight Processional in Walt Disney World occurs dozens of times during the Christmas season, over the span of an entire month, making it a more consistent part of the holiday calendar at Walt Disney World. The show lasts 40 minutes and takes place 3 times a day (typically 5:00, 6:45, and 8:15 p.m.) at EPCOT in the outdoor America Gardens Theatre, which is located in The American Adventure pavilion of the World Showcase. It is truly a wonderful guest friendly experience.

Since there are more opportunities for viewing, dining packages are available for EPCOT's version of the Candlelight Processional which give guests guaranteed seating.

Disneyland Candlelight Processional Tips

  • Historically Christmas Fantasy Parade times are adjusted to 12:45pm and 3:15pm on the dates of December 3rd and 4th to accommodate the Candlelight Processional in the evening.
  • Main Street vehicles will stop running at 12pm.
  • Stores in the surrounding area of Town Square will close.
  • There will be no popcorn or churro cart open in that area of Town Square.
  • The Disneyland Railroad and Jungle Cruise will not run during the performance times.

The Candlelight Processional is a wonderful, holiday tradition at Disneyland filled with rich Disney history. If you happen to be in the parks during this weekend, do your best to catch a glimpse of this nostalgic event.

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About McCayla Butler

McCayla visited Disneyland as a child and has fond and nostalgic memories of her time there, especially watching Fantasmic! and riding Peter Pan, but it wasn’t until she began planning the very first trip with her husband and two young children, that she became obsessed with the fantasy and wonder of it all – and the food. McCayla loves talking about Disneyland to whomever will listen and is passionate about helping others have a magical experience. She is thrilled to have joined the team at Mickey Visit and Disney Dose in July 2022 as a contributing writer. So hang onto your hats and glasses, folks. Let’s go!

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