A new video released by Mormon Newsroom allows viewers to get a view of the lights on Temple Square from the sky. During the Christmas season, 35 acres of Temple Square and the immediate area are covered with thousands of Christmas lights, a tradition that began in the 1965 under the direction of LDS Church President David O. McKay.
A 1997 Deseret News article by Jerry Johnston recounts the beginning of the lights. President McKay asked Irvin T. Nelsen, the Temple Square gardener, to put lights up everywhere. "President McKay," Nelsen said, "if we put lights in the trees, it will kill them."
"That's how I knew you were the man to do it," President McKay said. "You'll make sure the lights don't kill the trees."
52 years later, the trees are still there and each Christmas they are covered in lights. One of the most impressive trees on Temple Square is the cedar of Lebanon tree, which is decorated with red LED lights during Christmas.
“Brought to Temple Square as a seedling by a woman who had come back from a trip to Lebanon, the tree was given to the head gardener and planted near the east gate. Nearly 80 years later it stands at more than 70 feet tall, making it one of the largest trees on Temple Square,” Mormon Newsroom reported.
The Christmas lights on Temple Square turn on early each morning from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. and each night at dark (approximately 5 p.m.) and remain on until 10:30 p.m. They remain on until 11 p.m. on Dec. 14-16 for the Tabernacle Choir Christmas concerts and until 12:30 a.m. on New Year’s Eve.