Theme parks add diversity to seasonal holiday celebrations like Diwali, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah

The holiday season is a magical time at theme parks around the world. While Christmas is the main focus for many parks, there is a growing trend of including other fall and winter holidays in their festive lineups. This shift towards diversity and inclusion reflects the changing demographics of park visitors and the desire to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for all.

One of the holidays that is gaining recognition in theme parks is Diwali, India’s “festival of lights.” Diwali is observed by millions of people across various faiths, including Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and some Buddhists. It symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. At Walt Disney World, visitors can experience the Diwali festivities in the Asia section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The park is adorned with yellow and red marigold garlands and colorful lanterns, creating a vibrant and festive atmosphere.

Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, is another holiday that is being celebrated in theme parks. Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration that commemorates the rededication of Jerusalem’s holy temple. One of the most recognizable symbols of Hanukkah is the nightly menorah lighting. Universal Orlando Resort and Busch Gardens Williamsburg both host menorah lighting ceremonies in their on-site hotels, and SeaWorld Orlando has a nightly lighting of the menorah in Sesame Street Land. Walt Disney World also includes Hanukkah celebrations in their Epcot International Festival of the Holidays, featuring a costumed storyteller, traditional dishes, and merchandise.

Kwanzaa, a celebration of African American and Pan-African culture and community, is also gaining recognition in theme parks. Kwanzaa is a weeklong holiday that begins on December 26th and ends on New Year’s Day. At Walt Disney World, visitors can experience the wonder of both Christmas and Kwanzaa with the inspiring gospel, R&B, and holiday songs of the Joyful ensemble. Sesame Place Philadelphia and SeaWorld Orlando also hold daily Kwanzaa festivities, including storytimes and Kinara lightings.

Latin American holiday traditions are also being celebrated in theme parks. Las Posadas, a nine-day celebration that commemorates the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, is a significant tradition in Latin American countries. Walt Disney World offers a Las Posadas celebration at the Mexico pavilion in Epcot, featuring dancers, pinatas, and fiery performances. Disneyland’s Festival of the Holidays at Disney California Adventure also immerses visitors in Latin American Christmas traditions, including the Viva Navidad Street Party and specialty dishes at Paradise Garden Grill.

By including holidays such as Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Latin American traditions in their festivities, theme parks are embracing diversity and creating a more inclusive environment for visitors from all backgrounds. These celebrations not only educate and entertain, but they also foster a sense of unity and understanding among park guests. As theme parks continue to evolve and adapt to the changing world, we can expect to see more diverse and inclusive holiday celebrations in the years to come.

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