Disneyland Ups Its Diversity Game with the Festival of Holidays

For the first time ever, Disneyland is celebrating cultures from around the world with its new Festival of Holidays celebration at California Adventure.

Every year the Disneyland resort in Southern California decks the halls for an all-out Christmas extravaganza.   Mickey Mouse is festive in his Santa costume, Minnie Mouse plays the perfect Mrs. Clause and the park is wonderfully decorated to celebrate the magic of the Christmas season.

This year is a little different. For the first time, Disney is expanding beyond the Christian holiday to include holiday festivities and fun from cultures all around the world.

The theme park has two distinct areas: Disneyland, which boasts the original attractions dreamt up in the epic imagination of Walt Disney himself, and Disney California Adventure Park, a newer park that Walt would certainly be proud of, but didn’t really have anything to do with its invention.

The Festival of Holidays takes place at the California Adventure Park and staff pulled out all the stops to ensure people could have a taste of the many cultural holidays around the world. Those cultures are represented the second guest walked through the door and into the “happiest place on earth.”

Food, entertainment, and games from around the world are front and center, including traditions from Diwali, the Eastern festival of lights, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Three Kings Day, and Christmas.

A Jewish band sings Hanukkah songs

A Jewish band sings Hanukkah songs

As you walk up the main throughway in California Adventure, shops are set up along the sides, inviting kids of all ages to participate in local arts and craft that represent the different holidays.

Music and dance shows take place around the park, including an Israeli band, fittingly called Mostly Kosher, playing Hanukkah favorites and a Viva Navidad parade featuring Elena of Avalor, the first Disney princess inspired by Latin American cultures.

We also got to take in traditional Indian dance and a Bollywood party right in the middle of the park.

The Mexican parade celebrates diverse cultures

The Mexican parade celebrates diverse cultures

Elena of Avalor celebrates Navidad!

Elena of Avalor celebrates Navidad!

The real highlight of the Festival of Holidays is the amazing food selection. All over the park, they have set up booths that boast food from all around the world. So, in addition to the regular foods the park has to offer, there are more food selection this time of year than the park will ever have!

Each food station has a different theme that represents different parts of the country and all around the world.

We had a chance to try out Mistletoe Morsels, which featured holiday Swedish meatballs, and a shrimp cocktail martini (yes, there is alcohol in Disney’s California Adventure!)

Swedish meatballs are one of the cultural foods you can try at Disneyland during the Festival of Holidays

Swedish meatballs are one of the cultural foods you can try at Disneyland during the Festival of Holidays

I also wanted a taste of something I don’t always get to have, which I found at Mosiac Delights. There, we got to try roasted lamb, falafel donuts, baklava, and Moroccan mint tea.

Baklava is a festive treat served in the park

Baklava is a festive treat served in the park

To finish off your festive visit to the park, make sure to check out “World of Color – Season of Light,” which is one of the most spectacular laser light and fountain shows I have ever seen. They put on World of Color every night in California Adventure, but this year, they did something extra special.

The music is holiday themed, and includes mainly Christmas music, but also festive songs from different languages and traditions around the world.

The World of Color focuses on holidays around the world

The World of Color focuses on holidays around the world

For years, Disney has tried to up their diversity game by including more interesting games and entertainment from cultures all around the world. Although the set-up is mainly booths along the sides, I applaud their commitment to making sure all cultures are represented.

The World of Color lights up the sky at California Adventure

The World of Color lights up the sky at California Adventure

The park is still mainly oriented around Christmas and the magic of the season isn’t lost on guests, but the prominent display of different cultures and the choice to educate yourself and your kids on some of the other amazing traditions around the world is a good effort and well received by many of the guests.

Check out Festival of Holidays at Disneyland until Jan. 8.