Matt Gade, Deseret News
"Ven a mi casa esta Navidad."
That's Spanish for, "Come to my house this Christmas."
It's a holiday invitation one might hear in any Latin American neighborhood. But for the next three days, it's also the welcoming theme of this year's edition of the annual Latino program staged by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The program — which features a cast of almost 1,000 singers, dancers, musicians, actors and stagehands — will be performed Thursday through Saturday in front of thousands inside the Salt Lake Tabernacle. But the show's producers hope each audience member feels like a special guest in the home of Spanish-speaking family.
"This program gives us a chance to preserve and share the cultural heritage the we love," said Melissa Ottonelli, a cast member and Cali, Colombia, native who now calls Provo home.
"Ven a mi casa esta Navidad" is a 90-minute holiday celebration of song and dance. Presented entirely in Spanish, the diverse performances represent the many festive ways Christmas is celebrated across Mexico, Central and South America and the islands of the Caribbean.
"As soon as you hear the music and the lights go up, you can feel the spirit of Christmas," said Utah County resident Annya Becerra, who donned an ornate dress for her role in the Bolivian dance "Saya de Navidad."
Becerra and countless others from the cast are regulars in the annual church-sponsored Latino program. The event offers Utah Latinos an opportunity to share both their cultural traditions and religious convictions — even as they discover the holiday traditions of others.
The various editions of the annual LDS Church-produced Latino program have become staples on BYUtv International and are broadcast across the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking world.
Taylorsville resident Alejandro Ponce choreographed the "Las Posadas" dance that recounts the story of Joseph and Mary seeking shelter on a cold Bethlehem night. Ponce came to love the "Posadas" and its familiar reenactment of the first Christmas while growing up in Mexico.
"Every culture has different ways to celebrate Christmas, but the purpose is the same — to remember the birth of Jesus Christ," he said.
"Ven a mi casa esta Navidad" will be performed Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., with a Saturday matinée at 2 p.m. Tickets for the event are sold out.
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