Latter-day Saint Life

The Story Behind Temple Square's Cedar of Lebanon (+Why It Only Has Lights Every Other Christmas)


Walking around Temple Square in August, you might be surprised to see crews hard at work setting up Christmas lights.

But with hundreds of thousands of lights going up each year for the holidays, crews have to begin decorating the trees early, even if there's no snow forecasted for months to come.

And there's a special tree on Temple Square that is only lit up every other year—the 78-year-old Cedar of Lebanon tree. 

Brought to Temple Square from the Holy Land in the purse of Mrs. Petty, it must have been difficult to imagine that the then 7-inch sapling would become the Square's most popular tree.

Standing at 70-feet tall near the east gate of the Square, the tree survived ice falling from the temple roof and sheering its top and plans for its removal during construction for the South Visitors' Center. 

However, despite holding up to extreme weather and construction blueprints, the tree is relatively fragile. Each time lights are strung around its branches, the tree loses limbs and needles. In an effort to preserve the tree's longevity, the Cedar of Lebanon is only lit every other year. 

And this year, the tree will once again be a historic feature in the Christmas light celebration.

Here are pictures of the progress crews have made so far:

Image title

Photo courtesy Danielle Wagner
Image title

Photo courtesy Danielle Wagner

Lead image from Mormon Newsroom

Stay in the loop!
Enter your email to receive updates on our LDS Living content