To me, Christmastime has often looked as though it was ripped out of the pages of a storybook. A blanket of snow on the ground. Blue-gray skies. Auburn candlelight. The festive tunes of holly jolly Christmases and the most wonderful time of the year.
So it’s safe to say my brain felt broken when I stepped onto Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland. Palm trees. Bright sunshine. Sweat poured down the back of my neck. But I still heard those songs of winter wonderlands and that beat of the drummer boy.
I kicked off the 2021 holiday season with a trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, California. This is much different than the holidays where I would spend my time tucked away inside wrapped in a thick fleece blanket, counting down the days until Santa slid down the chimney.
Disneyland is full of palm trees, sun, sweat and amusement park rides — all of which I align with the summer months. The summer is when you visit an amusement park and ride thrilling coasters that make you want to throw up. It’s summertime when you get splashed with huge waves, like at the end of Splash Mountain. You shouldn’t be doing this for the holidays.
But Disneyland does all of this. Disneyland brings you the summertime feelings, the sun, the surfer vibes of the California coast. This happens all year round.
So yes, my brain was broken when I stepped onto Main Street U.S.A and saw the gleam and shine of Mickey Mouse as Thanksgiving Day neared.
But then something happened. Over time, I came to realize that Disneyland isn’t just a place for summertime fun. The park has made tremendous efforts to make you feel like you’re wrapped up in the most wonderful time of year — even when it feels like July.
Somehow, Disneyland became pure Christmas and holiday nostalgia, even if nothing about it seemed like the days of yule.
Songs, sounds and sights of the holidays
Disneyland dressed up the entire theme park for the holiday season. Last year, the theme park was closed down due to the coronavirus pandemic, which stopped Disney from showing off its Christmas spirit. The streets were layered with wreaths, bright Christmas lights and the sweet songs of the holiday season. A quartet of barbershop singers rode the trolly down Main Street U.S.A., singing their own tunes and embracing the holiday season.
Throughout the park, Disneyland visitors held their cups of hot cocoa and their peppermint-covered chocolate marshmallows. Rides like Haunted Mansion, Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl and Mater’s Jingle Jamboree were all redecorated for the holiday season, too. There was no shortage of holidays in the park. Stores were packed with Christmas gear and items celebrating Hanukkah.
The “A Christmas Fantasy” parade showed off the Disney holiday season as much as you’d expect. Mickie and Minnie walked around dressed in holiday garb, speaking about the holidays. “Frozen” characters Elsa and Anna chattered along as they made their appearance at the parade. Everything you’d expect from the holiday season was there as the Disney faithful moved about Main Street U.S.A.
Just as impressive was the “Disney ¡Viva Navidad!” celebration sprinkled through the park. Dancers filled the road, bringing a new cultural event to the Disneyland holiday celebration.
The night was capped off with “Believe... In Holiday Magic” fireworks, which illuminated the sky above the Magic Kingdom as Christmas songs swelled around the park. It was a pure moment of magic as the fireworks shone everywhere. Family members huddled together, enjoying the holiday in a moment of pure bliss.
I met a family while I was at Disneyland. The family — a father, mother, grandfather, grandmother and two children — spoke about making the trip out to Disneyland for the holidays. They were excited to visit the California theme park for the Christmas season, earning the opportunity to embrace snacks and sweet deals all tied to the season of yule.
No matter where you are, the holidays still matter. Sure, you spent $1,000 to visit Disneyland and see those fireworks. But at least, at the end of the day, families still gathered, basking in the wonderment of the wintry holiday season.
The most wonderful time of the year
There’s plenty to marvel at when you’re walking around Disneyland. You can spend hours walking through the gift stores, picking out the right Disney pins or the best shirt. The crowded stores aren’t isolated to the rest of the world. They exist on Main Street, too.
The sights and sounds of the holiday season can envelop you, wrap around you and drag you in like a warm hug. You can get lost in spending, the shopping, the buying of it all. Maybe you didn’t need that holiday tart cookie. Maybe you didn’t want the hot cocoa fresh from the food stand. But you bought it because it’s Christmastime and it’s time to celebrate the ones you love around you.
But remember — it’s not only about loving those around you by buying them gifts, presents and treats. It’s a time of year where you’re meant to honor and cherish the ones around you. Bring them in for a tight hug. Spend hours with them around a park, trying out different rides and grabbing lunch on the Pixar Pier.
I went to Disneyland to cover a holiday press event. It rattled my mind when I saw all the sunshine and the palm trees during a time of year that’s meant to be packed with snowfall, blizzards and cold temperatures. You need a fire to stay warm, not an A/C to cool you down.
But what I saw there was much more than the California weather. It was the family sitting at lunch, wondering about their next snack. It was the newlywed couple walking together through the park, trying to figure out what they were going to see next. It was the family of four — a gathering not unlike the Griswold family of “Christmas Vacation” — seeking out the next great ride opportunity.
It might not have felt much like the holiday season when I got to Disneyland. But the holiday season is more than the weather and the place you’re visiting. The holiday season is that smile over a cup of cocoa, the hug during a winter light festival and the sweet love shared between family during the season.
So learn from my mistake. Find a way to appreciate the holiday season around you no matter where you are. The most wonderful time of the year can happen anywhere — we just have to be willing to accept its warm embrace.