The Lights at Temple Square

Light Display at Temple Square in Salt Lake City

Ever since I first visited Salt Lake City back in 2010, when Mark and I were in the first flushes of our romance (and unknowingly pregnant!), I have heard from all of our friends and family about the beauty of the lights at Temple Square. Every year, from right after Thanksgiving until New Year’s Eve, millions of beautiful Christmas lights illuminate the entire area surrounding the Salt Lake City temple, the hub of the LDS religion. Until now, I’ve never had chance to see it for myself, and so just before Christmas last weekend, we joined my mother-in-law and Mark’s brother and his family to take a stroll around the grounds.

My expectations were quite high, as it had been bigged up so much by all I knew. And I was secretly quite worried that my enthusiasm would be dampened by the religious associations of the landscape. But I needn’t have worried. Other than a never-ending nativity scene that I found somewhat… erm… shall we say… not to my taste, the outing was mostly just about enjoying the scenery and appreciating the history.

The lights at Temple Square in SLC

As we drove to downtown SLC, the kids were a little bored, so to get them excited about the evening, I told them that we were going to see a big castle. It seemed kind of silly to tell them we were seeing “The Temple” as it would have invited a ton of questions about what a temple is and that might have led to talk of religion, and that’s not a conversation I’m really ready to have with them quite yet.  And the architecture kind of lends itself to being a castle in a kid’s imagination, so it wasn’t really that much of a stretch. Anyway, it got them excited.

Salt Lake City Temple

Funnily enough, Dexter has reached a stage where he doesn’t want mom and dad around if he’s hanging out with his “friends” – which is pretty much everyone from his cousins to the random kids he meets at the local play center. So he spent the whole evening holding hands with his cousin and refusing to really participate in any discussion with us. He’s going to be fun when he’s older – I can tell…

Dexter and Daniel with Christmas lights

At least we managed to get him to cooperate long enough for a few photo ops with his brother and a family photo in front of the temple.

Family photo at Temple Square in Salt Lake City

I did notice a little spark of curiosity in him, though, when it came to certain religious experiences of the evening. It began when his cousin pointed to the top of the temple at the statue on top and asked if he knew who it was. When Dexter said no, he happily explained that it was the angel, Moroni, and began to explain the significance of it to him. I don’t think Dex understood much, but he did pay attention. He was also enthralled at the aforementioned Nativity scene, listening to the booming voice telling the story of Mary and Joseph and the little baby Jesus.

(Before you start thinking I’m anti-God, I assure you, I am very much not. Mark and I have very differing belief systems, but I am very firmly in the corner of “there is something greater than myself.” I don’t particularly subscribe to the Bible, however, and I want to be able to discuss it with my kids when they are old enough to understand and think for themselves. I want them to explore their own relationship with God (or lack thereof) and not fear that there is a book of rules they have to adhere to. Ahem. As you were…)

Making funny faces

Dan didn’t really understand anything of the evening, except that there were some pretty lights. He has always been happy with shiny things, so I knew he’d enjoy the evening immensely, and I was right. He had a ball. The hardest part was keeping him out of the displays! He kept wandering off, and at one point we actually lost him in a crowd of people, and my brother in law found him several yards away trying to get behind some barriers. The kid will be the death of me, I swear!

Baby Chester was all bundled up in the cold winter night, and though he slept through most of it, he did wake up at certain points and look around in wonder. I LOVE babies’ reactions to twinkly lights. It’s always the same – just abject wonder.

Baby staring at Christmas lights

As for Mark’s and my reactions to the lights, well… let’s be honest. It’s hard to compare once you’ve been to the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The fact is that many of the lights at Temple Square were burnt out or just not working. There were many comments about it. But even if they had all been working, I still don’t believe it would have compared to Disney’s magic. We have been spoilt! What can I say?

Even so, we had a great time just taking silly selfies together.

Silly Christmas selfies

We DID get to check out something VERY cool, though – the Tabernacle! From which the Mormon Tabernacle Choir takes its name. I’ve always loved the choir, so to enter the building and hear for myself the acoustic genius of the building (it is so acoustically sensitive that a pin dropped at the pulpit can be clearly heard at the back of the hall, 170 feet away!). We were lucky enough to hear someone play on the giant organ, which has 11,623 pipes!

Mormon Tabernacle organ

Before we left the grounds (hey – we have little kids and we end up having to leave things early quite often!), we stopped by the Handcart Pioneer Monument, which the kids had a great time climbing on. The monument is there to commemorate the several thousand Mormon pioneers who walked from Iowa City to Salt Lake City back in the 1850s because they couldn’t afford ox-drawn carts. They literally carried all their belongings and pushed them by hand. Crazy!

Even crazier is that the woman in the monument was modeled on Mark’s great-great Grandmother. A little bit of family history right there.

Mormon Handcart Pioneer Monument in Temple Square

At the end of the day, we had an amazing time out with our family. Though we had to leave before the rest of the gang, we saw pretty much everything and had a wonderful evening seeing beautiful lights. I’m hopeful that next year they will have fixed all the burnt out lights and it will be even more lovely. I can see that this will become a regular family tradition as long as we live in SLC.

If you’re ever here over the holidays, I strongly suggest you make the effort to see it.

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Katie Reed

Katie Reed

Katie Reed is a 38 year old mom blogger from Salt Lake City, UT. She is married to the man of her dreams and together they have four beautiful boys. Dexter is 9, Daniel is 7, Chester is 5 and Wilder is 2. She writes about living with mental health issues while navigating motherhood. Her blog focuses on tips and tricks for moms, information and parenting news, kid-friendly recipes and crafts. She loves to reflect on the humorous side of parenthood and shares the reality of her life, with a "warts and all" attitude.

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