What will Christmas on Temple Square look like this year?

The COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing renovations at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Salt Lake Temple are resulting in different experiences for holiday visitors planning to view seasonal lights and watch musical performances this year.

For the 2020 Christmas season, much of the viewing of the lights and musical performances will be a different celebration of the Savior’s birth than in recent years, as Christmas on Temple Square will be a virtual experience.

Holiday lighting at Temple Square in Salt Lake City and on the grounds of the Washington D.C. and Los Angeles California temples once again will be switched on in the evenings after Thursday, Nov. 26. 

A view of the Salt Lake Temple surrounded by trees with Christmas lights in November 2020.
A view of the Salt Lake Temple surrounded by trees with Christmas lights in November 2020. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Because of the Salt Lake Temple renovation project, the lights on Temple Square will only be viewable in person from surrounding roads and exterior sidewalks. No public access to Temple Square will be available, with the plaza fenced off and the gates closed. Those walking by are encouraged to wear masks and practice social distancing.

In Washington and Los Angeles, the lights will be available only to those driving by in vehicles.

The lighting programs as well as an outline of the devotionals, concerts and performances traditionally hosted at Temple Square during the holidays were announced Thursday, Nov. 12, on Newsroom.

Devotionals, concerts and performances

The First Presidency Christmas Devotional will be broadcast from Temple Square on Sunday, Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. MST — livestreamed on ChurchofJesusChrist.org — and will include messages by general authorities and general officers of the Church. Music will be from previous Christmas devotionals by The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square.

Traditionally, Christmas on Temple Square begins with a kickoff performance in the Tabernacle and the turning on of the lights. This year, viewers worldwide can enjoy the event and its messages in a virtual way, as sister missionaries serving at Temple Square will host a live broadcast and guide viewers on a virtual tour of Temple Square and the Christmas lights.

Snow-covered trees are illuminated on the first night of the annual Christmas lights display at Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019.
Snow-covered trees are illuminated on the first night of the annual Christmas lights display at Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

The broadcast can be viewed Dec. 1 at 6 p.m. MST on ChurchofJesusChrist.org and on the Temple Square Facebook page. The event will be provided in 11 languages and available for viewing on demand after the live broadcast.

Christmas performances gathered from across the globe will be shared nearly every night. Concerts — which will be done in English but will also feature songs in other languages — will run Dec. 2 through Dec. 23 beginning at 6 p.m. MST on ChurchofJesusChrist.org and on Tuesday and Friday evenings on the Temple Square Facebook page.

You can be part of Temple Square Christmas concerts this year. Here’s how

“Light the World: Social Sing and Serve” — allowing viewers to sing along and serve with some well-known musicians — is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 14, at 6 p.m. MST. It will be streamed at ChurchofJesusChrist.org and on the Temple Square Facebook page.

The annual Christmas with The Tabernacle Choir holiday special this year will be online broadcasts of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square’s 2019 Christmas concert, recorded last December prior to this year’s pandemic restrictions. The special features Tony Award-winning star Kelli O’Hara and renowned actor Richard Thomas. Visit the choir’s website for viewing information during the month of December.

Dancers perform with the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square during a Christmas concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019.
Dancers perform with the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square during a Christmas concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Also, Tabernacle organists will continue their live concert series, “Piping Up: Organ Concerts at Temple Square” several times a week during December. These concerts are streamed live at noon MST on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on YouTube, ChurchofJesusChrist.org and the Choir’s website.

And “Music and the Spoken Word” — which airs every Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. MST on Tabernacle Choir channels — will feature Christmas specials each Sunday starting Nov. 29 and airing through Dec. 20.