Disneyland’s candlelight parade

Holiday ceremony expands December dates

It’s been a Disneyland tradition since 1958. But it’s also been a well-kept secret, until now.

Disneyland’s Candlelight Ceremony and Processional is a holiday concert featuring 600-person choir and an orchestra of local notable musicians, as well as a notable thesp narrating the story of the first Christmas. It’s all staged with great fanfare on the steps of the Main Street railroad station. Past narrators have included Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck and John Wayne.

Walt Disney established the tradition as a perk for Disneyland’s business partners and other supporters. For decades, the processional has been held as an invitation-only event for two nights during the first weekend in December. This year, the park is extending the performance for three weeks, starting Saturday through Dec. 20.

Because access to the performances was so limited, Disneyland never did much promotion for the Candlelight ceremony, though it’s a favorite of many residents in the Anaheim area because the park draws on local churches and other orgs for the members of the choir.

But with recent renovations allowing for more performances, Disneyland officials decided to take a page from Disney World and keep the Christmas cheer running through most of December, with two shows each night.

The invitation-only Saturday and Sunday perfs will feature Dennis Haysbert. The other narrators lined up are Kurt Russell (Dec. 3-5), Edward James Olmos (Dec. 6-8), Lou Diamond Phillips (Dec. 9-11), Dick Van Dyke (Dec. 12-13), Marcia Gay Harden (Dec. 14), Patricia Heaton (Dec. 15-16), Molly Ringwald (Dec. 17-19) and Haysbert again on the closing night of Dec. 20.