Even though we are a Christian religion, many people still don’t understand our Mormon faith and what we do and don’t believe. We’re also known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), for example. We have many of the same traditions as other Christian faiths. In fact, our international members often combine our religious traditions with their cultural practices for a truly unique and meaningful experience. We celebrate all the national holidays of our countries, just like everyone else. But what about religious holidays?
Do Mormons believe in Christmas? Mormons are a Christian faith, Easter and Christmas are both considered particularly important holidays to celebrate. LDS members around the world celebrate Christmas according to local customs. Actual Christmas traditions may vary slightly depending on the culture a member lives in.
Just like all Christians who celebrate the holiday, we love Christmas. In fact, we love all the same holidays as you. Whether we live in the United States or elsewhere around the world, you’ll find us celebrating right along with you. While we may do a few things a little differently, for the most part, if you joined us for a holiday celebration you’d feel right at home.
Unique Mormon Christmas Traditions
As Christians, we find the birth of Christ to be one of the most momentous events in our religious life. We’ve dedicated our life to upholding Christ’s work on earth and leading good lives in His honor. While we believe deeply in Christmas and celebrate it along with the rest of our Christian brothers and sisters, there are a few things we do just a little bit differently.
Many people have cherished memories of Christmas Eve church services. We know of many different Christian denominations that have candlelit services, special children’s services, and even midnight masses. However, we don’t really have any special service we do on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day.
That’s not to say, however, that we don’t come together as a church to celebrate Christ’s birth. Just the opposite! We hold many church services and programs devoted to Christmas throughout the month of December. Many churches will hold their Christmas service on the Sunday before the big day. If the holiday happens to fall on Sunday, many of our temples will often shorten our traditional services for a special Christmas service. We spend our Christmas Eves and Days with our families.
One of our biggest celebration over the holidays is something we have called the Christmas Devotional. It is held every year in December at our Salt Lake Tabernacle in Utah. Those who are able are welcome to attend in person, and it’s also recorded and televised so those of us in other states and countries can hear the service. In these services, our leaders give sermons, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings many different hymns and songs, and Christmas-themed stories are shared. It is an exceptionally beautiful service, and we look forward to it every year.
In addition to reading scriptures from the Bible, we will also read from the Book of Mormon, which has its own writings about the birth of Christ. In the first book of Nephi (11: 14-21), it says, “. . . an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou? And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins . . . And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh. And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms. And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!”
The first book of Nephi prophesized the birth of Christ, and in the third book of Nephi, the Christmas story continues with the actual birth of Christ, foretold all those years before. We consider the Book of Mormon to be a second witness that Christ was born to a virgin and is indeed the Son of God.
Service to others is also an important part of our Christmas traditions. All over the world, our brothers and sisters reach out to the less fortunate to help them have a good season themselves. Families are encouraged to volunteer their time and give a little back to the community.
While many churches have women’s groups, our Relief Societies (each woman in the LDS church is automatically a member of her church’s society) have their own yearly Christmas gathering. It often includes dinner or food and is a way for all the women of the congregation to come together in fellowship during what can be a stressful time of year, especially for mothers and women with large families.
A Celebration of Christmas
Even though we do something things just a little differently, for the most part we still celebrate it just like everyone else. We tend to follow our own culture’s celebratory traditions. Here in the United States, we have Christmas trees, poinsettias, and all the same evergreen decorations others use to decorate their homes. Our kids believe in Santa Claus, and we have presents under the tree. We go caroling, we drink (non-alcoholic) eggnog and have parties.
Many of our families will re-enact the Nativity scene while reading the Christmas story from the book of Luke on Christmas Eve. Some of our families do this quietly at home or have larger performances for their community or friends of the family. Our kids have crafts they enjoy doing and we make Christmas cookies and leave them out for Santa. Our kids wake up on the morning of December 25th, excited for the stockings and presents under the tree.
Our focus at Christmas tends to be on the family and celebrating Christ. Even though we don’t have Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services usually, we do have celebrations in our churches. We’ll put on nativity scenes with the children and sing carols. Depending on the size of the church, it may put on dinners or other social events in the weeks leading up to the holiday.
Some of us even celebrate the tradition of Advent. It isn’t a required practice in the Mormon church, but it also isn’t prohibited, either. Some of us weave the tradition into our at-home spiritual practices. We’ll add in readings from the Book of Mormon and light the candles with our children.
Gift-giving is a part of our Christmas traditions as well. However, we work hard to make sure the focus of the season (and the day) isn’t on seeing how many presents you get. Instead, we try to keep the focus on Christ. We’ll read scriptures at home and we often find a way to give back to those in need.
Because many of our brothers and sisters live overseas, their Christmas traditions may look a little different. For example, in Denmark, children leave bowls of porridge and milk for Julnisse, a kindly little man who is responsible for mysterious events around the house. As thanks for the food, he leaves the children food.
Other Mormon Holidays
In addition to Christmas, we also celebrate Easter. Much like Christmas, our focus is on Christ and the resurrection. While we have Easter Sunday services, we don’t take part in other related religious activities, like Lent, Ash Wednesday, or Holy Week.
Many of our families, especially those with younger children, enjoy the secular tradition of the Easter bunny and giving out baskets and eggs. However, that’s not a key part of our practices. We try whenever we can to bring the focus back to Jesus Christ; how he died for our sins and was resurrected by God. We contemplate how we can be more like Christ, and how we can do good works to celebrate his life.
While not technically a religious holiday, we also celebrate Pioneer Day. Celebrated yearly on July 24th, the holiday marks the day the first group of LDS members arrived the Great Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Since it is a state holiday in Utah, most schools and businesses are closed, and we have the day off. We have parades, concerts, and themed activities at our local churches. Even our international members will acknowledge this holiday, even if just a special pioneer-themed church service.
We also start celebrating in the days leading up to Pioneer Day, with something called the Days of ‘47. Starting about a week before the holiday, we have an awards banquet, concerts, a rodeo, church services, games, and a marathon. On July 24th, was have a big parade full of floats, horses, bands and more. There are often fireworks as well.
Just like you, we love to celebrate our nation’s holidays. We celebrate secular holidays like Halloween, New Year’s Eve (only without the champagne toast at midnight), the 4th of July, Thanksgiving, and Memorial Day. We also some smaller dates where we remember important events in our history. These aren’t special holidays where they’re marked with ceremonies or parades, but they are nonetheless important to us:
- April 6
- May 15
- June 27
- December 23
If you are interested in learning about other Religions in the world, then check out this book on World’s Religions on Amazon.