Sunday, December 20, 2015

Remembering Epcot's Lights of Winter Holiday Display

By Keith Mahne

How many of you remember Epcot's jaw-dropping Lights of Winter Christmas display? You know, the one that debuted for Christmas 1994 and were retired in January of 2009. For years, Epcot celebrated the spirit of the holidays with the Lights of Winter Christmas light show, an archway of lights synchronized to holiday orchestral music. Its loss was lamented by fans, especially after the fairly lame excuse given by Disney. Let's discuss Disney's reason for ending this beloved holiday tradition, talk a little about its history, and watch the complete show before it closed in today's Disney Avenue Christmas article...

I can't emphasize enough how much this writer, and I'm certain hundreds of you, sorely misses Epcot's incredibly beautiful Lights of Winter! The lights, displayed over the walkway between Future World and World Showcase, was a beloved, Christmas family tradition for thousands of Park fans and was a popular addition to Epcot along with the nightly tree lighting ceremony that accompanied it. The canopy was truly the result of Disney's magic and, just sitting here thinking back to standing underneath those lights as a kid, its lose really pulls at the heartstrings.

The crowds of park goers from all over the globe, the wonderful Christmas music that filled the air, the singing of songs and the learning of holiday traditions from cast members was truly a sight to see. The whole experience honestly did capture the meaning of the season and one couldn't help but feel that everything was just right, that this is what Christmas is all about.

And then came the announcement in 2009 that the Lights of Winter would no longer be installed for the Christmas season. Wait...WHAT! And this is the best part...the reason Disney gave for this you're going to love. A Disney official released this statement on the official Parks Blog...

The Lights of Winter canopy has been enjoyed for years but the technology to operate the lights is obsolete, prompting us to retire the lights and find a new experience.

Again...WHAT! Unbelievable! Not another Epcot fan-favorite gone forever, right?! You and I both know that if Team Disney Orlando really wanted the display to remain that a simple technology upgrade would have been no problem. I mean these are the same people that brought us MyMagic+...well, maybe that wasn't the best example to use but you get my point. How about, oh I don't know, maybe they could have used the same technology as say.....the OSBORNE FAMILY SPECTACLE OF DANCING LIGHTS!!!! I digress. Sadly, the statement and rumors of its demise were true and the Lights of Winter display was no more.

To me, it's the little things that I love, and it's the little things that really makes Disney's theme parks so special. You see, I'm a sucker for tradition, I don't really care for change much, and I'm a HUGE nostalgic. You can understand why I hated to see this go. Now of course I'm just kidding around a bit today with all the dramatics of its departure, but there is no doubt that Epcot had a truly spectacular holiday experience on its hands that could have remained a Disney Christmas tradition for generations to come. Sort of like, another Epcot holiday favorite, the Candlelight Processional which was started by Walt Disney himself back in 1958.

Although the decision to remove Epcot's Lights of Winter display is an old topic, and even though nothing has really taken its place in Epcot to date, it's still fun to remember the joy it brought us during those old family Christmas vacations to the vacation kingdom of the world. And with that in mind, for your holiday enjoyment here on Disney Avenue, we have the complete Lights of Winter loop, both video and audio. So my friends, sit back, relax, and allow those wonderful, warm and nostalgic Christmas memories to come flooding in. Merry Christmas from Epcot...


Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true everyday.


  1. Between this article and your most recent podcast about the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, you are single-handedly keeping the tiny, red + green electric lightbulbs of mousetalgia lit for Disney fans all around the world. Keep up the great work, and have a very merry Christmas, Keith!

    1. Thank you my friend and I hope you are having a wonderful holiday season!!

  2. We visited EPCOT this December and wondered what happened to the Holiday Arch. It was magical and special to see to remind us of the holiday season. Sorry to see it go. Thanks for your comments. Agree, Disney's explanation does not make sense