Christmas lights on Temple Square in pictures from 1965-2013

Deseret News Archives

Christmas is a time of giving, renewed devotion, hope, snow, festive songs and lights. And Christmas lights are a renowned specialty at Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

The lights on Temple Square — due to be lit on November 28, this year — have been a tradition for 49 years and have grown considerably since their introduction.

In 1965, David O. McKay, then-president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asked arborist J. Leland Behunin to pioneer the project of stringing Christmas lights on Temple Square. Lights on the trees worried many who feared that the heat from the lights would cause the trees stress. According to an earlier Deseret News article, “Going from warm to cold repeatedly and abruptly can cause the tree's cell structures to tear, but the lights can also help prevent tree disease and bugs over winter.”

With the first “Lighting of Temple Square,” nearly 15,000 people came to witness the lights firsthand. When President McKay touched the button to turn on the 40,000 lights, the Deseret News reported that “a mighty ahh” of appreciated came from the crowd. From 1965-1982, Behunin and his son, wrapped the Temple Square trees in Christmas lights, and in the beginning they did so without ladders or many tools. Leland Behunin’s son, Ben, is grateful for the contribution his family could give to the lights tradition.

"It's special to know we have done something for Temple Square and the Lord that has been so wonderful for so many people," Ben Behunin told the Deseret News.

Over the years, millions have enjoyed the atmosphere the lights give to Temple Square during the Christmas season. On their first lighting in 1965, President McKay said, “Our minds tonight should be on the Babe of Bethlehem whose coming into the world Christmas morning reminds us all that we each should have in our hearts the love of Christ.”

Click through to see pictures of the lights on Temple Square throughout the years — from the first lighting in 1965 onward.

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Alameda, CA

Thank you for the beautiful photos of Temple square. I especially loved seeing the Temple. Wished I was there in person.

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