Magic kingdom and EPCOT have long been the kings of Christmas at Walt Disney World but the other parks have started catching up. In 2017 Hollywood Studios began the Flurry of Fun that quickly catapulted it to one of the best parks to be at during Christmas. Animal Kingdom joined in on the holiday fun in 2019 when they debuted their take on the holiday season. Animal Kingdom is, perhaps, the most meaningful of all the Parks at Christmas even if it isn’t the most exciting or popular. The Park celebrates thoughtfully with emphasis given to aspects of the Holidays that are often overlooked.
This year the Merry Menagerie is back and better than ever! Every year Discovery Island comes alive with beautifully crafted puppets to create a winter Wonderland of natural splendor. The puppets feature winter animals from around the world. Puppeteers roam the area and guide animal puppets around interacting with the guests and sometimes dancing for a crowd.
At night, the tree of life comes alive as projections show winter animals awakening from slumber to survey the land. Christmas scenes also project onto the tree as we see animals celebrating Christmas. Christmas at on Discovery Island is a great reminder that nature celebrates alongside us during the winter months as it settles in for a restorative rest in the quiet portion of the year.
In Africa you’ll find some unique decor. If you’re looking at the photo above and wondering, “is that a bicycle wheel?” Yes. Yes it is. The village of Harambe is fictional but it is modeled after a collection of very real places in Africa. Imagineers noticed that making do with what they have is a value of very much importance to many of the African Villages they visited.
There isn’t a lot of money to buy things considered frivolous like holiday decorations. Nor is there an abundance of places to buy them outside of major cities. Instead the people create beautiful structures and decorations with what is available to them. Often it is a tire wreath or bicycle wheel. To honor this tradition and stay as authentic as possible, Animal Kingdom’s village of Harambe is decorated in a similar fashion.
Over in Asia, you won’t find any Christmas decorations. Imagineers once again wanted to go with authenticity and respect for the cultures represented. Asian countries do not, in any large numbers at least, celebrate Christmas. There are dozens of winter holidays celebrated in Asia, and imagineers wanted to honor this.
While no specific countries are represented in either Africa or Asia, the area of Asia represented in Animal Kingdom most closely resembles Nepal and India. Those countries are largely Hindu and as such, Animal Kingdom’s Asia celebrates Diwali, a Hindu festival of lights! Cultural representatives are present in the area and we had a wonderful experience on our last visit learning about the celebration.
All of Animal Kingdom’s holiday celebrations come together to create an amazing thesis statement for Animal Kingdom as a whole: Nature, Conservation, and Exploration. It isn’t as flashy as other parks and celebrities don’t show up to perform but it is a wonderful heartfelt celebration for those willing to stop and take it in.