Thousands of lights displayed make for a spectacular sight; especially when they are a part of celebrating the holidays and making memories with family and friends.
Now in its 37th year, the Mesa Mormon Temple Christmas light display is brightening up not only the temple grounds, but enhancing the meaning of Christmas and the holiday sprit. The display is free to the public.
“We may put the lights on the grounds, but it’s the light of the people that actually bring a greater light and response,” said Stacey Farr, director of the display. “We’re seeing that every evening on temple grounds, there is an outpouring of people from all faiths and walks of life that come and are gracious and kind…There has been a light in these people as they come and view and we hope they feel that love for them we have and carry it back into their own lives and communities.”
Farr said 37 years ago the display began with 5,000 blue lights on top of the visitor’s center, which are still incorporated into the display today. To prepare for this year’s light celebration, Farr said she and her team starting planning in January to come up with a design that enhances the natural beauty in the gardens and the colors of the plants and bushes. This year, she said they focused on their banana trees and created a light display that simulates bananas in the tree.
In addition to the Christmas lights, people can also view the 100-plus variety of nativities from around the world in the visitor’s center. The nativities are either donated, on loan from owners for the season or owned by the temple. Farr said one that was donated in 2015 is over 30 pieces and carved in unique ways depicting a community in France. Another unique nativity is made out of soda cans; all of the nativities celebrate different cultures’ interpretations of the birth of Christ.
For families who like some music while taking in the lights, there is also a concert series each night at 7 p.m. on the grounds until Dec. 25 featuring local musicians, groups and school choirs.
“This year our church has focused on the #LightTheWorld,” Farr said, explaining that until Dec. 25, each day is a way to provide service to others in the community, neighborhoods, families or strangers and that is how they light the world. One way is to bring the holiday spirit and joy to those who come and view them.
If you have a question or need some assistance, look for people on the grounds wearing red name tags. Farr said they are also the ones who helped build the display and manage the 3,000 volunteers who help throughout the year to build the display, set up, and manage the lights.
The Christmas display is not only a holiday highlight for Mesa residents, but for others in Arizona who travel to the city to see the lights and participate in downtown Mesa holiday activities.
“I’m very grateful that we have the temple lights in our downtown,” Mesa Mayor John Giles said.
When people come to see the lights, they usually participate in other activities such as enjoying one of many food trucks in Pioneer Park across from the temple, skating on the temporary holiday ice rink or viewing the city Christmas tree.
“In a lot of different ways they add to that experience by patronizing some of our downtown business people so it’s a blessing for us economically to have something that is drawing hundreds of thousands of people to our business district, in addition to the fact that it’s a nice amenity and a great way to celebrate the holidays. It’s a fun thing to do with your family,” Giles said.
“There’s no question it brings people to Mesa. It’s a beautiful and well-done exhibit and it’s free,” he continued. “There’s no monetary enrichment to the temple, they just do it to help people celebrate the holidays.”
Giles said going to see the lights is a part of his family’s tradition. He said when he and his family would go to see the lights every year, they would be hard pressed to find something to do either before or after.
“That’s why a couple of years ago I was really motivated to bring more attractions to downtown Mesa to be complementary to what’s going on at the temple,” he said.
Three years ago, the city had a few food trucks, but now that has evolved into Merry Main Street, which has Jack Frost’s Food Truck Forest, the Winter Wonderland Ice Rink at City Plaza, and Mesa’s Christmas Tree all in downtown Mesa to add to the temple Christmas light experience.
“The things we’re doing in downtown Mesa are to build on this great tradition of hundreds of thousands of people coming to downtown Mesa to celebrate the holidays,” Giles said. “We want to give them more things to do and they bring even more people down here. It’s a great quality of life thing to do for our kids and families and winter visitors to have something fun and memorable to do over the holidays and it’s good for business.”
Farr said each year she chooses a word she and her team focus on for the light celebration; this year’s is “behold.”
“It has been so wonderful to watch what the different team members are recognizing as something to ‘behold,’” she said.
One thing Farr has enjoyed is watching how strangers have interacted and been extra kind and friendly to each other such as offering to take pictures of each other’s families.
“That is what this season is all about,” she said. “That is why we as individuals light the world. It isn’t just these little lights we plug in, it’s these wonderful acts of service and kindness and respect, that’s what has been lighting up the world for me.”
The Mesa Mormon Temple is located at 525 E. Main St. and is open from 5 to 10 p.m. nightly until Dec. 31.
To learn more, visit: MesaChristmasLights.com.
– Mesa resident Alyssa Tufts is a freelance reporter for MyNewsMesa.