MESA, Arizona ? Mesa will once again be home to one of the Southwest’s largest holiday lights displays this Christmas season.

The 26th annual Temple Garden Christmas display, titled Celebrate the Birth of Christ in Light and Music, which attracts some one million visitors every year, will feature hundreds of

thousands of colorful lights and holiday dioramas that blanket the garden area of the Mesa Arizona Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Eight hundred volunteers will donate more than 10,000 hours of labor throughout the holiday season to make this display a reality. 

The Temple Garden Christmas Celebration will be kicked off with a lighting ceremony on Friday, Nov. 25, 2005, at 6 p.m. Two brothers who survived Hurricane Katrina and relocated to Phoenix will flip the switch to begin the 26th season of Christmas lights. The lighting will be followed by a choral performance by the Arizona Mormon Choir. 

Following the lighting ceremony, the display will run nightly from Saturday, Nov. 26, 2005, and continue through Sat., Dec. 31, 2005, with the lights being illuminated from 5: 30 p.m. until 10 p.m. each evening. Admission is free and open to the public. 

Additionally, the Temple Garden Christmas Celebration will feature 37 choral and performing groups that will give free concerts each evening of the display through Dec. 31, 2005, starting at 7 p.m. The groups have been selected from all over Arizona and include family choruses, school choirs and various private ensembles.

Twenty-six years ago, local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints decided to begin a light display at the temple as a gift to the community. At the time, a mere 5,000 lights covered the beautifully manicured temple grounds. Today the holiday celebration has grown into

the largest known volunteer-driven Christmas lighting display.

In addition to the Christmas lights, the temple grounds will feature a large nativity display with figurines and materials specially crafted in Europe.  New features this year include life-size replicas depicting the Biblical prophet Isaiah, who prophesied of Christ’s birth, as well as Mary and Joseph on their journey to Bethlehem.

Spectators are also welcome to tour the Temple Visitors’ Center, where they can see a 10-foot replica of the original Christus sculpture by Bertel Thorvaldsen, view a short film about the birth

of Christ and participate in other new state-of the-art exhibits and dioramas.  Christmas light and Visitors’ Center display narratives are available in both English and Spanish.

The Mesa Arizona Temple grounds are located at 525 East Main Street. Free parking is available in adjoining parking lots or on neighboring streets.  Handicapped parking is available in the parking lot just east of the Temple Visitors’ Center. Tour buses are welcome and can be accommodated up to eight at a time in the parking lot east of the Visitors’ Center. Restroom

facilities are also provided in the same lot. For questions about parking, contact the Arizona Temple Visitors’ Center at (480) 964-7164.