News Story

Mormon Christmas Traditions Reflect Family, Service and Spirit

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are ready to welcome the Christmas season, just as other Christians do, as a time to reflect on the birth of the Child who would provide the foundation of all Christian faiths.

As traditions in many nations increasingly drift from a religious holiday to a merchandising event, Mormons face the same issue as many other Christians — how to maintain a focus on the spiritual meaning of the holiday while still enjoying the festivities of the season.

For some, the spiritual elements are maintained through traditions that serve a community — donating to local food banks, leaving anonymous gifts on a doorstep or strolling through neighborhoods singing carols.

In Abuja, Nigeria, Latter-day Saints Winston and Bola Doherty gather as a family with their three children to read scriptures and sing carols before they deliver greetings to friends and neighbors. In addition, their Church congregation plans to unite in a cleanup of the city park as a holiday gift to the whole community.

In Salt Lake City, neighboring churches of several faiths, including Mormons, join in presenting a live Nativity celebration for the community. Members of the various congregations accept responsibilities as cast members and for covering logistical arrangements for the portrayal. The production is staged in a tree-lined gully with shepherds tending flocks on the hillside, a setting that feels authentic. Lighted by torches and more than 1,000 lanterns and accompanied by the music of local choral groups, the annual presentation draws crowds of all ages.

Director Sheri Bradford thinks the success of the community outreach lies in the subject matter portrayed: “In all of theater, there is no show like the Nativity, no production that brings joy to so many people as retelling the birth of the Savior.”

On a larger stage, the temple grounds in Sydney, Australia, exhibit a life-size Nativity augmented by a Christmas lighting display.

The story of the Nativity is told another way in rural Walkerton, Ontario. Local resident and Church member Flora Nabrotzky organized a collection of 2,300 crèches as a gift to the community.

“People drive miles to wander through the exhibit,” she said of the collection containing Nativities from at least 60 different countries. The final room shows all white, ivory and crystal sets, a room which people suggest reminds them of heaven. One Anglican minister admitted he felt like kneeling as he observed the displays.

The heavenly strains of Christmas music inspire a group in Boston to carol through their neighborhood. Jen Thomas finds sharing song provides “the true joy of the season, a moment apart from the bustle to concentrate on family and friends.”

Many of Thomases’ neighbors look forward to the annual serenades; one elderly couple even videotaped the front porch performance this year. “They wanted to experience the voices of the children again during the holidays,” Thomas added.

Sharing the holiday with others in need claims priority for many community-minded members of all faiths.

In Orlando, Florida, Mormon missionaries and members joined with others in the community for “Project for the Homeless,” providing health screenings, emergency supplies and a hot breakfast to more than 900 homeless individuals.

At the request of the National Conference of Community and Justice in Chicago, members of the Church throughout the metropolitan vicinity collected six truckloads of donated blankets, coats, scarves and hats for inner-city residents. According to Marv Evans, the Latter-day Saint chair of the project, the NCCJ selected four different churches, all based on need, as recipients. Even though the collection time was limited to less than three weeks, the Mormon response was generous and filled six trucks.

“I see our own members becoming more aware of developing the highest level of giving, the trait of charity, in their lives,” explained Evans as he observed this project. “They understand that love of Christ is not only love of Him but all of our Heavenly Father’s children, regardless of their lot or station in life. I think the response we received to this instance is an indication of that feeling.”

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.