Over 1,000 people gathered Monday, Dec. 1, in Provo to kick off the Christmas season by breaking the Guinness World Record for the largest live Nativity scene. The interfaith event, which was organized by The Radiant Foundation, broke the record set last year in Great Britain by 898 participants.
The live Nativity featured several well-known families and individuals. The Deseret News caught up with many of these participants. They explained why they chose to take part in the Nativity and what Christmas means to them.
A video of the Nativity, starring David Archuleta and the Piano Guys, whose contributions were filmed in a separate location, will be released later this month.
“This is mostly for my kids," Shay Carl said. "I want my kids to be here and see what the real meaning of Christmas is. It’s Cyber Monday today, where everyone else is out shopping and trying to find the right presents, so I think that it’s cool that all these people showed up to do something to focus on Jesus and his mission, and that’s the gift of the season."
“I just hope that people realize that our Savior is something that can bring peace," Butler said. "I think a lot of the world searches in vain for happiness in ways that will not bring them happiness. It’s kind of like an empty or futile mission to find happiness in the things of the world, and I hope people see that our Savior, Jesus Christ, is not only there to bring us peace but to bring us happiness. I think our Savior wants us to be happy on this earth. That’s why we’re here is to have joy. I think that’s ultimately the message that we’re trying to share today is the gift of our Savior and the peace that comes through him and his life."
“When the creative team at Bonneville Communications shared this concept with me, ... it just felt important, and I think it felt important because it looked like an opportunity to do something very ecumenical, nondenominational, where a lot of people come together and engage in a project that is completely designed to celebrate the birth of our Savior," Sheri Dew said.
"It’s something cool," Dew said. "It’s different. It’s unique. It’s new. It’s a new way to celebrate the holiday season. ... It’s an opportunity to celebrate the Savior and his birth. So, to me, that’s why this is important because it’s a different way of celebrating and of basically singing praise to him, and I love that. So that’s why we’re doing it.”
"(Christmas is) all about the Savior to me, and of course then that gives us this beautiful license and opens an opportunity to really reach out to others," Dew said. "And when all is said and done at the end of the Christmas season, that is what you remember. You don’t remember the bike that you unwrapped, but you remember these special experiences you had with the people you love."
"For me, personally, I want people to know we believe in Christ," Alex Boye said. "I want the whole world to know that we’re LDS; we’re Mormons. Call us what you want, but we believe in Christ. That’s the most important thing. That’s the reason why I want to get involved in this."
"This is a labor of love," Boye said. "This is 'share the goodness,' ... and any part I can play in that, however small, I’m all over that."
"I think a lot about the Atonement when I think of Christmas and think about Christ and what he did," Boye said. "And what that means to me, that means that it’s OK that I’m imperfect. It’s OK that I mess up so many times. It’s OK that I say the wrong stuff. It’s OK that I make so many mistakes. The fact that even despite all of that, the Lord still uses me as a tool in his hands to be able to spread the message, just like he does with every single one of us, that’s powerful. That’s a huge concept to me."
"This is the most epic production of mankind," Peter Hollens said. "There are so many talented people involved. I’m so humbled to be a part of it. Honestly, I’ve been looking forward to it for so long."
"I have been wanting to actually be in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir my entire life, since I was a little dorky kid," Hollens said. "So being able to be in a song with them is ridiculous. Obviously the Piano Guys are so amazing. I was just recording with David in his studio like two hours ago. That is one of the most talented, gracious, humble dudes ever. He is lovely and so talented. I absolutely adore all the people here."
Hollens said the purpose of the project was to help participants and viewers of the video remember the true meaning of Christmas.
"It’s been commercialized for so long," Hollens said. "I think it’s nice to have positive pushing back the other way a little bit."
"Being someone who actually isn’t LDS, but I believe and I have faith, … you want to be around people who have good morals and high beliefs, and everyone here is just so lovely, and its one of those things you have to do," Hollens said.
"Anytime you can start off the season, the season of giving, with the first gift, that’s an amazing project to participate in," Dawn Armstrong said.
"What a wonderful opportunity to bring the spirit of what the season’s all about," Armstrong said. "Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love the symbolism. The birth of Christ is like a sense of renewal, and we go into a new year and focus on renewing promises to ourselves of who we want to be and who we want to end up becoming.
"There’s just not a better way to spend the day," she added.
Devin Graham said he participated in the project for several reasons.
"No. 1 is just the message behind what we’re doing," Graham said. "We’re here to remind people what Christmas is all about and bring them unto Christ. So that’s the No. 1 reason is to have that experience. And we’re collaborating with so many amazingly talented people, so I feel there is so much synergy going into this. So it’s kind of awesome, and I feel honored to even be asked to be a part of this.”
“More than anything, I just want people to know what makes us successful as far as what we believe," he said. "There are not that many opportunities where I can go out and share my beliefs so openly, but especially during the Christmas season, it gives me permission to say, 'This is what I believe and this is why and these are the things that are really important to me.' ”
"We've tried hard in our home to keep the Savior as the focal point of our Christmases. For us to start off the season as part of a world-record-setting live Nativity, followed up by a mini-Nativity put on by the children of our YouTube friends, was simply amazing! We'll never forget it. He is the gift," Mindy McKnight said.
"We hope that all viewers will feel the very same Spirit that we all felt as we participated in this beautiful production. From the family Nativity tradition we all do in our homes every Christmas Eve, complete with towels and robes functioning as kids' costumes, ultimately giving a glimpse into a 'live' Nativity, featuring a newborn baby in a simple manger, with a loving Mary and Joseph, animals, shepherds, wise men, and countless angels singing and witnessing His birth. That's what it would have been like. That night, a sweet little baby boy entered our world, and changed our lives forever."
"Christmas is my favorite holiday season, because of its focus on family and the traditions surrounding it. With so many little ones in our home, it's easy to feel the magic through them. I'll sit down by myself at the piano to play a few Christmas songs and before I know it ... all eight of us are there singing along in harmony. Each year we find a few ways to serve others through charities and service opportunities. We feel that the best gift you can give anyone, is to serve them."
"It sounded like a really fun opportunity," producer Jared Shores said. "There’s a lot of really great people involved with it for a good cause, something we all believe in, so it was a no-brainer for us. Hopefully it’s something that we can all remember what the true reason for Christmas is in a fun, different way."
"(I hope fans take away) something to remember what Christmas is about," said Jeremy Warner, a "Studio C" cast member. "It’s not about Santa Claus; it’s the birth of Jesus. The most important thing about Christmas is that it’s a celebration of the birth of Christ and all the great things that Christ did for the world."
"The meaning of Christmas is family and friends," cast member Stacey Harkey said. "Its cherishing those really special moments and remembering what it is all about, which to me comes down to Jesus Christ and this awesome gift that we have."
"We were so excited when we heard about it, and we’re honored to be included in this group of people," Hailey Gardiner said.
"The Nativity story is something that everybody knows about, and I think it will turn out so beautifully and will be a really inspiring experience for us doing it and hopefully for people watching it," Allie Gardiner said. "I think it will be super sharable, especially during this Christmas season."
"I think sometimes you can easily forget what Christmas is really about," Mandi Gardiner said. "It gets crazy and exciting, and you just forget sometimes. So I think this will be a great reminder. I hope it will touch people’s hearts. We’re just excited that we get to be a part of it and see it."
"The thing I’m most excited for is watching this video when it’s done," Stuart Edge said. "I’m probably going to cry when it gets to the point with all those angels. ... You already get emotional just looking at them."
"This video will be very powerful," he said. "You don’t see this many people, ever, and in a Nativity. I think people are going to love it because it’s going to be cool to watch."
"For me, personally, Christmastime is the time we remember Christ," Edge said. "That’s why I think this is cool. I think this is actually what it was like in the real Nativity, when Christ was born. There were probably thousands and thousands of angels, so it’s almost like we’re recreating it exactly how it was."
"First and foremost, the opportunity to have my child featured as the baby Jesus with so many people here and the Guinness World record, how fun would that be to have him grow up one day and look back?" Shaye Scott said about his 11-day-old son, Hudson, who played the role of baby Jesus.
"We (The Piano Guys) were approached by a couple individuals to collaborate on this, and we thought it was faith-promoting and something that represents our values, and we thought it would be a great opportunity," he said.
"I would hope that people can see with all the hecticness and everything that’s going on around us ... the importance and true meaning of what this is all about, just to help people reflect and remember what the season is all about," Scott said.
"It’s a good thing to bring back the true meaning of Christmas," Robbie Bagley said. "It’s all about Christ. It’s cool to be a part of something so big."
"I think it will help people feel the Christmas spirit and just the purpose of Christmas and why we have it as a holiday," he said.
"I’ve seen some YouTubers that I’m a huge fan of," Anson Bagley said. "It will be cool to see what famous people play who in the Nativity."
“I’m honored," actress Florencia Donnelly said. "It’s so special. It’s a great opportunity, and I wasn’t expecting all this, so it’s incredible.”
“From what I understand, it’s going to reach different countries, and it’s not about having the same religion," she said. "It’s about having the same goals and peace, helping each other and being a good person and the importance of remembering that, especially around Christmas."
“What I like about Christmas is I feel like people think about others more, which should be every day, but around Christmas people feel like they need to help more,” Donnelly said.
"I think it’s pretty exciting in general trying to beat the Guinness Book of World Records, and with the holidays coming up, I just hope people can take whatever they feel like they can take from it," Andrew Jueidi said.
"Family (at Christmas time), that’s what’s important to me," he said.