Nothing goes together better than Disney and the Christmas season. Look around! Surely Disney is sprinkled throughout your Christmas decorations. Maybe you have one of those “Our First Christmas Together” ornaments on the tree. Or maybe it’s the “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament?
If you’re like me, your tree topper is only perfect if it is, of course, Mickey ears. This year, I was thinking about Disney first became part of our family’s Christmas celebration.
Recently my family found my father’s journals from the 1970s. Looking through the 1972 journal, we found an entry written on December 21, 1972, entitled “Disney World Today.”
It was our FIRST trip. Yes, my dad even had a little trouble spelling “Disney.” To be fair, if you had been in a station wagon with FIVE kids driving in the snow for numerous days, you may have misspelled it too.
Backing up a couple of days in that 1972 journal, I read on December 16th, “SNOW–Wind 20 degrees–plowed driveway again–No Florida Trip.” Pennsylvania winters were awesome if you enjoyed snow piled 6 feet high day after day. Then on December 17th, this entry: “Snow slowed down some, still windy–temp 16 degrees. Planning on leaving in the morning.” The entry for Monday, December 18th simply says “FLORIDA–Left at 4:00 a.m.”
I remember those trips. We had no DVD players or TVs in vehicles. Truth be told, we didn’t even wear seat belts. You had books, your crayons, billboards to read, and siblings to fight with for three long days in the station wagon.
The Magic Kingdom had only been opened for a little more than a year and we were over-the-top excited to be on our way. We were that family who gathered around the TV each Sunday evening to watch The Wonderful World of Color and sat in amazement as Walt showed us the attractions in his new park. Orlando was on the way to Grandma’s house in Englewood, Florida for Christmas, and I doubt anything short of a blizzard could have stopped us from going.
I was not yet a teenager, but I remember this trip. Emerging out from under the Walt Disney World Railroad station tunnel, I got my first glimpse of Main Street USA and the LARGEST Christmas tree I ever saw in my life! We were greeted there by a cast member. I can still see her in the 1972 uniform. She wore a blue and green plaid skirt, white shirt, bow tie, a cape, and an English bobby-style hat.
She was our tour guide for the first part of our morning. You see, cast members on this day had little to do because the Magic Kingdom was almost EMPTY. Can you imagine? Four days before Christmas and we had the place nearly all to ourselves. I remember as she walked us up Main Street USA, she actually asked us, “Why are you here? Don’t you know it’s Christmas? Nobody comes here now, because they all have Christmas things to do so, it is pretty slow.”
She stayed with us for more than three hours, walking us to lines for The Jungle Cruise, The Tiki Birds Tropical Serenade, and the Haunted Mansion. It was a rainy, overcast morning, but for this family of seven from northwestern Pennsylvania, the weather seemed great. We parted ways with our cast member tour guide in Fantasyland at It’s A Small World.
Jumping ahead 44 years from that day, I am certain that on December 21, 2017, the Magic Kingdom will reach capacity. We will probably never again see days where the parks are almost empty so close to a holiday. For our family of seven, that first trip set us on a path that would include many, many more visits to WDW.
Even if you are planning to visit with thousands of others this Christmas, I wish you a happy, magical time with your family. Who knows? Maybe 44 years from now, your kids will still talk about your awesome 2017 holiday trip. Do you have memories of those early Magic Kingdom years? When was your most memorable WDW Christmas trip? Perhaps it’s time to plan the next one. Merry Christmas!
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