My Christmas morning at Walt Disney World

December 24, 2023, 12:23 PM · To celebrate the Christmas holiday, I would like to share my favorite Christmas morning story from the years when I worked at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. Then, after that, please enjoy some of our Christmas entertainment videos, from Disneyland and Universal Orlando.

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The two kids flew by me, running through the Pirates of the Caribbean turnstiles, moments after seven in the morning.

Dad, with his newly-bought coffee in hand, lingered in the plaza. The morning air felt bitterly cold, after the snow earlier that week.

"Merry Christmas," I told him, the first of many such greetings I'd be offering that day.

"Merry Christmas," he replied, stamping his feet. Few tourists had brought the right clothes for the cold snap. "Wow, it must be tough working Christmas morning."

I laughed.

"Actually," I said, "several of us were just wondering if we'd find anyone out here coming to Disney World first thing on Christmas morning."

To be honest, I think the actual words another Pirates cast member had used moments before the park opened were something like, "I cannot believe that anyone in their right mind would come to Disney World instead of spending Christmas morning opening presents." But I didn't tell the Dad that.

He laughed.

"Yeah, you'd think that we'd be opening presents somewhere, right?"

The guy reads minds, I guessed. Another family walked into the plaza, shivering as they pushed through the turnstiles.

"Well, obviously I'm skipping that, too," I said with a grin. Of course, I'd be opening presents with my family before Christmas dinner that afternoon, after my shift, so it wasn't like I wasn't going to be celebrating the day. I wondered if they'd be doing something similar, too, later in the day at whatever hotel where they were staying.

The Dad's focus shifted; he turned his eyes from me toward the passageway his kids had run into.

"The kids said they really wanted to go to Disney World for Christmas," he said. "Their mom and I told them that we couldn't afford that, with other presents, too."

He sipped his coffee.

"So the kids said, 'Fine, let's skip the other presents and all give each other a trip to Disney World, instead,'" he continued.

The Dad brought his eyes back to me, and I could see a misty look in them, one that had nothing to do with the cold.

"So I guess they're opening their presents now, after all."

He stood, silently now, with a silly grin on his face, his eyes drifting back down the passageway.

I let him have the moment, then spoke.

"They'll be exiting through the shops over to your right, sir," I said.

"Oh... yes. Thanks."


He looked back at me, as he walked across the plaza.

"Merry Christmas," I said.

Best wishes to all of you, and thank you for reading Theme Park Insider.

Replies (7)

December 24, 2023 at 12:37 PM

Happy Christmas Bobby!!

December 24, 2023 at 2:01 PM

(Wipes tears)
Merry Christmas to everyone in this community, and to everyone at TPI. Slaínté!

December 24, 2023 at 6:57 PM

Great story.

December 25, 2023 at 8:00 AM

I was standing on the sidewalk along Oak Ridge Road. There was a digital time and temperature sign in front of a union hall. It was informing the world that at 6:00 AM on Christmas day 1983 it was a bone-chilling 27-degrees. I was waiting for my ride that would take me to my shift as a conductor on the Walt Disney World Steam Railroad. I wasn't really looking forward to spending that frosty morning riding in the open air on the back of the Walter E. Disney or the Roger E. Broggie. My blood had thinned since arriving in Orlando from Chicago. Even the WDW supplied wool pea coat wouldn't serve as the catch-all answer to the bracing weather.

I'd come to Central Florida via the Magic Kingdom College Program. I was a student at the University of Kentucky. While walking through my dorm I spotted a yellow flyer on a bulletin board featuring the image of Mickey Mouse. Already a fan of the parks -- having made two family trips (1973 and 1974) -- I jumped at the chance of joining the MKCP.

My class arrived at Kissimmee's Snow White Trailer Park (located on Seven Dwarf Lane) in the fall of 1982. Our MKCP class was on hand for the opening of EPCOT Center. We kind of invented "drinking around the world". By luck of the draw I was placed in Main Street/Adventureland operations -- working as a Jungle Cruise Skipper.

When the semester was up I returned to Kentucky -- but I only lasted four months. By May of 1983 I had returned to Orlando -- finding permanent placement as a cast member. Over time I moved from the Jungle to Main Street operations, to the steam train.

And while I will never forget that morning and how I stood shivering on the sidewalk, the real Christmas memory was seeing the Candlelight Processional when it was held on Main Street USA. As a Main Street Adventureland ops CM I was detailed (twice) to do crowd control.

It was amazing.

Live orchestra in Town Square. The living Christmas Tree choir. The lights on the Main Street buildings fading to black. And the processional essentially floating down Main Street from Cinderella's Castle and onto the risers at the train station -- followed by a throng of guests. Everything silent and still before the orchestra began to play.

That was a sight to see.

But on the cold morning of Christmas 1983 I wasn't revisiting that memory. I was dealing with terminally chapped lips. My ride showed up and we sped off to the CM entrance. Bus to the tunnel. Conductor black and whites from wardrobe. Off to the station to start the opening SOPs.

Emerging from the tunnel I waked out to the hub and started to head down Main Street. Still and hour or so before the park was to open, everything was still. As it was Christmas, I happened to be carrying my trusty Canon Sure Shot Auto Focus camera. When I realized that I was alone on Main Street I was smart enough to capture the moment -- framing the park's Christmas tree in the center.

I still have the print. And (obviously) the memory ... from 40 years ago.

Merry Christmas to Robert and all of the TPI regs. Best wishes for a healthy and prosperous new year.

December 25, 2023 at 10:15 AM

Christmas is a perfect example of why Disney needed to go to dated tickets/reservation system. I can't imagine how horrible it must be to save up for years and pay and absolute fortune just to go to a place that is wall to wall people with 2 hour waits for everything from open to close (usually 8am-1am), especially with little kids and grandparents.

December 26, 2023 at 5:28 AM

Sometimes simple is better !

December 26, 2023 at 1:06 PM

@TH Creative. thanks for sharing your wonderful memory and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to ya!

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