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Disneyland Resort celebrates a season of inclusion

The “Disney ¡Viva Navidad!” street party features Mickey and Minnie dressed for the occasion at Disneyland in Anaheim.
The “Disney ¡Viva Navidad!” street party features Mickey and Minnie dressed for the occasion at Disneyland in Anaheim.
(Sarah Mosqueda)

The holidays are often hailed as the most wonderful time of the year. This season, Disneyland Resort is acknowledging that the idea may be true for different reasons, depending on what traditions you honor and which culture you celebrate.

“Today starts our Festival of Holidays celebration, and it goes all the way through Jan. 8,” said Stephanie Graves, a Disneyland Resort cast member, on opening day, Nov. 11. “What we love about the Festival of Holidays is there is something for everyone. It is not only fun, but it is educational. You get to embrace your own culture and maybe learn about your neighbors as well.”

The multicultural celebration takes place at Disney California Adventure with food and entertainment featuring traditions from Christmas, Navidad, Hanukkah, Diwali, Kwanzaa and Three Kings Day.

Bollywood dancers tell the story of Diwali at Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim on Nov. 11, 2022.
Bollywood dancers tell the story of Diwali at Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim on Nov. 11, 2022.
(Sarah Mosqueda)

Performances range from the Grammy Award-winning Mariachi Divas, who play holiday tunes in the style of mariachi to Mostly Kosher, which honors Hanukkah with a contemporary spin on klezmer music. At the Paradise Gardens Park, the Blue13 Dance Co. tells the story of Diwali with traditional and Bollywood-style dances while the Mistletoes celebrate Christmas and the spirit of Kwanzaa with a cappella vocals.

“Disney ¡Viva Navidad!” is hosted by the Three Caballeros and features Brazilian samba dancers and percussionists.
The “Disney ¡Viva Navidad!” street party is hosted by the Three Caballeros and features Brazilian samba dancers and percussionists.
(Sarah Mosqueda)

The Disney ¡Viva Navidad! street party, hosted by Three Caballeros and Minnie and Mickey dressed in traditional folklórico costumes, features Brazilian samba dancers and percussionists, Mexican folklórico dancers and 12-foot-tall mojiganga puppets, papier mâché sculptures first brought to Mexico by Spanish colonists as a folk religious tradition.

“They have these giant mojiganga puppets of Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus,” said Arielle Harris, a Disneyland Resort cast member. “The kids are always screaming when they see those, because we have never had those at the park before.”

A giant mojiganga puppet at the “Disney ¡Viva Navidad!” street party at Disney’s California Adventure.
A giant mojiganga puppet glides through the parade at the “Disney ¡Viva Navidad!” street party at Disney’s California Adventure on Nov. 11, 2022.
(Sarah Mosqueda)

The Festive Foods Marketplace features nine kiosks, each serving creative takes on multicultural cuisine, like Filipino favorite pork belly adobo with garlic fried rice, curry mac ‘n cheese with cilantro oil and crispy garbanzos. A snack-friendly spin on a Jewish deli mainstay, lox and everything bagel nachos, comes with bagel chips, cream cheese, diced smoked salmon and everything spice, topped with onions, tomatoes and capers. Guests can purchase a Sip and Savor Pass good for eight food or non-alcoholic beverage items over multiple visits.

At Disneyland, festive holiday décor can be found throughout the park.

“Over at Disneyland Park you have your 60-foot Christmas tree and at the end of Main Street, you have Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, which is beautiful at night,” said Harris.

The festive holiday décor at Disneyland includes a 60-foot-tall Christmas tree on Main Street, USA.
(Sarah Mosqueda)

The castle gets capped with snow for the holidays, and during the nightly “Believe ... In Holiday Magic” fireworks spectacular, it snows in the park. In New Orleans Square, Jack Skellington gets comfortable in the Haunted Mansion as the attraction transitions from Halloween to Christmas and transforms into Haunted Mansion Holiday.

“It’s a Small World Holiday,” celebrating its 25th anniversary, also gets a holiday makeover. More than 50,000 twinkling lights adorn its usually white façade. Every 30 minutes throughout the night a light projection show that features holiday imagery like snowfall and nutcrackers is displayed to holiday music.

Lights on the façade of “It’s a Small World” at Disneyland for the holidays.
(Sarah Mosqueda)

But even Disneyland’s tried and true traditions like “Small World” are making strides toward more inclusion.

“For the first time ever, they have added in a doll in a wheelchair,” said Harris.

The inclusivity isn’t just reserved for the holidays.

A limited-time experience celebrating “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” at California Adventure immerses parkgoers in the spirit and culture of the fictional world of Wakanda.

“Disney has really taken a giant step in this inclusion, diversity movement with this character,” Paul Bryant, associate show director at Disney, said of Black Panther. “When I was growing up as a Black man, we didn’t have a super hero. The Black Panther that I grew up reading in comic books was not a Black man, he was a man in a black suit. This is very important to me for our young people to see there is actually a character in the park, who is just as popular as Snow White or Cinderella, and he is a Black superhero.”

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is celebrated at Disney California Adventure Park with new experiences.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is celebrated at Disney California Adventure Park with new experiences.
(Sarah Mosqueda)

At the celebration, Chieftan M’Baku invites “recruits” to share some of the culture of the Jabari Tribe through chants and percussion in “The Way of the Jabari” experience.

“We took the character of M’Baku and brought him into the Avengers Campus. It is an interactive moment,” said Bryant. “We made sure we kept the true essence of the character.”

The experience continues with dishes inspired by African cuisine at Flavors of Wakanda in the Hollywood Backlot, with menu items like peri-peri chicken and Maafe, a West African stew made with beef and peanuts. The Black Panther Celebration Garden honors the legacy of the Black Panther, and respect is also paid to the late Chadwick Boseman, or “King Chad,” in a special mural at Downtown Disney illustrated by artist Nikkolas Smith.

No matter what you celebrate, this holiday season is one of inclusion at the resort.

“Disneyland is a place where everybody is welcome, no matter what age, background, ethnicity or class. So it is so important that a place that draws so many people has something for everybody to connect to,” said Harris. “And, also it is an opportunity for someone to learn about another culture, and that is probably one of the most exciting parts too. It brings everybody together.”

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