The History of Epcot's Lights of Winter

Disney Parks History

Lights of Winter Arches Epcot Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World has had a variety of wonderful and beloved offerings for the holiday season over the years that have gone away, from the Osbourne Family Lights to the recent loss of the Magic Kingdom Dreamlights.

But one that was just as impressive, but gets very little love, was Epcot's Lights of Winter.

Based on an almost identical display that originally appeared along Main Street USA in Disneyland Paris in 1993, it would come across the ocean to Walt Disney World a year later. This display would last in Paris until 2005.

Epcot's Lights of Winter was located in the central walkway between Future World and the World Showcase and was a massive light display. It premiered for the 1994 Christmas season and served as the most elaborate piece of Epcot's Holiday's Around the World with the exception of the Candlelight Processional.

Lights of Winter from Walt Disney World Monorail Epcot

The display was designed around the Walt Disney World Monorail track with a massive arch on the Future World side, with multiple identical smaller arches on the World Showcase side. All of these would dance to a series of holiday songs in a way that was majestic and beautiful.

The show would begin with an opening ceremony every night that involved both the Lights of Winter and the main Christmas tree of Epcot which was located next to the display alongside the shores of World Showcase Lagoon.

Epcot Lights of Winter Christmas Dancing Display Disney World

This display predated the Osbourne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights by a year as the first widespread usage of dancing Christmas lights in Walt Disney World.

Ths display ran nightly for holiday seasons every year through 2008 with no notable change to the displays, remaining consistently popular, with crowds stopping on all sides of the lights to watch their continuous show.

The design of this section of Epcot made this display easy to watch from many locations throughout the park, surrounded by bodies of water that reflected the lights of the display in the clear ponds below.

Lights of Winter Epcot Off at Dusk Disney World

While the display was popular, a consistent complaint was that it did not look good during the day, which to be fair is a complaint you could make about most of Disney's holiday light displays both past and present, but it was different than just being lights on a building. It was its own structure that was put up and taken down each year. This left a large, white, pipe-like structure in the center of the park that looked beautiful and elegant each night, but significantly worse during daylight hours.

It would be announced that the display would not return in 2009 due to allegedly being outdated. This denied it a proper send-off, and the show has never been adequately replaced by anything of the same scale at Epcot since it closed.

Lights of Winter Epcot Off at Night Walt Disney World

While the show was not on the same scale as the much larger Osbourne Family Lights, it didn't have to be. While the Disney's Hollywood Studios show attempted to be a high energy show encompassing an entire land, Lights of Winter was always meant to be a lower energy show befitting the more factual approach to the holiday celebrations found around Epcot's World Showcase. It was meant to fit seamlessly into the park rather than be its own attraction.

This show does not receive the love it deserves. Whereas the Osbourne Lights and other holiday displays in Walt Disney World receive love and are missed each year, this show remains relatively forgotten despite gracing Epcot for over a decade. Personally, it is one of my favorite lost parts of Walt Disney World and I have great memories of wandering beneath its arches and enjoying the majestic atmosphere.

Epcot Christmas Tree Walt Disney World

Today the tree it once stood beside stands alone in this section of Epcot during the holiday season.

Epcot's Lights of Winter was an important part of the evolution of holiday celebrations at Walt Disney World, and it should be remembered with the same respect as the other classics it stood alongside at Walt Disney World.


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