BETA

Latino Christmas program

“Ven a mi casa esta Navidad” — that’s Spanish for “Come to my house this Christmas.”

It’s a holiday invitation one might hear in any Latin America neighborhood. But it’s also the welcoming theme of this year’s edition of the annual Church-sponsored Latino cultural program.

Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News

The program — which features a cast of almost 1,000 singers, dancers, musicians, actors and stagehands — was performed Dec. 5-7 in front of thousands inside the Salt Lake Tabernacle. But the show’s producers hope each audience member felt like a special guest in the home of a Latter-day Saint Spanish-speaking family.

“This program gives us a chance to preserve and share the cultural heritage that we love,” said Melissa Ottonelli, a cast member and Cali, Colombia, native who now calls Provo, Utah, home.

Sister Ottonelli added that the program doubles as a valuable missionary tool. The songs, dances and video clips emphasized the central role the Savior plays in the life of each cast member.

Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News

“Here we have an opportunity to share our testimony of Christ,” she said.

“Ven a mi casa esta Navidad” was a 90-minute holiday celebration of song and dance. Presented entirely in Spanish, the diverse performances represented the many festive ways Christmas is celebrated across Mexico, Central and South America and the islands of the Caribbean.

“As soon as you hear the music and the lights go up, you can feel the spirit of Christmas,” said cast member Annya Becerra, who donned an ornate dress for her role in the Bolivian dance “Saya de Navidad.”

Sister Becerra and countless others from the cast are regulars in the annual, Church-sponsored Latino program. The event offers LDS Latinos in Utah an opportunity to share both their cultural traditions and religious convictions — even as they discover the holiday traditions of others.

Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News
The children's choir performs along with the men and women's choir during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
The children's choir performs along with the men and women's choir during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News

Preparing for the program, added Sister Becerra, demands hours of rehearsals. But it’s time well spent. “I do this because of my love for the gospel, my culture and my Savior.”

The various editions of the annual Church-produced Latino program have become staples on BYUtv International and are broadcast across the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking world.

The children's choir performs along with the men and women's choir during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
The children's choir performs along with the men and women's choir during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News

Taylorsville, Utah, resident Alejandro Ponce choreographed the “Las Posadas” dance that recounts the story of Joseph and Mary seeking shelter on a cold Bethlehem night. He came to love the “Posadas” and its familiar re-enactment of the first Christmas while growing up in Mexico.

“Every culture has different ways to celebrate Christmas, but the purpose is the same — to remember the birth of Jesus Christ,” he said.

Brother Ponce and his wife, Sarahi, also enjoy the missionary aspect of the Christ-centered program. They know the songs and dances are visual testimonies of the gospel. Their participation has helped them feel closer to their missionary son, Elder Kevin Ponce, who is serving in the Dominican Republic.

Free tickets for the popular event were sold out.

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Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News, Deseret News
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News
The children's choir sing along with the men's choir during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
The children's choir sing along with the men's choir during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News
Rebecca Lopez performs "Los peces en el rio" during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
Rebecca Lopez performs "Los peces en el rio" during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News
The children's choir performs with the men and women's choir during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
The children's choir performs with the men and women's choir during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News
Los Hermanos de los Andes perform "La peregrinacion" during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
Los Hermanos de los Andes perform "La peregrinacion" during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News
The men's choir performs during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
The men's choir performs during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News
Rebecaa Lopez performs "Los peces en el rio" during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
Rebecaa Lopez performs "Los peces en el rio" during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News
The women's choir performs during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
The women's choir performs during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News
Lupe Mayorga performs Farolito during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
Lupe Mayorga performs Farolito during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
Dancers perform during the dress rehearsal for the Latino Christmas program, "Luz de las naciones: Ven a mi casa esta Navidad," at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Photo: Matt Gade, Deseret News