Now imagine instead of a house you have to decorate the Roman Catholic cathedral for the city of Atlanta, which will host tens of thousands of worshippers over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. This is the challenge facing Linda Seitz and Jane Murray, co-chairs of Cathedral of Christ the King Flower Guild.
Because of Advent, the season that precedes the birth of baby Jesus and therefore is observed as a time of preparation, many churches cannot decorate for Christmas until the Monday before. This year the final Advent service is Sunday at 7 p.m. and Christmas Eve mass is Monday at 4 p.m.
This anomaly means 30 or so volunteers will be buzzing nonstop between the two services to decorate the cathedral for Christmas. The flower guild room is more a forgotten concrete storage space at the bottom of some stairs outside the cathedral than a working nursery. The diminutive room, which couldn’t measure more than 20 feet by 20 feet if that, is the staging area for the guild most Sundays.
As Christmas Eve approaches, though, all of the cathedral becomes a functioning floral assembly line. The cafeteria for Christ the King School, for example, will soon house fresh greenery, flowers and wreaths. Classrooms and offices will house garland, poinsettias and hundreds of feet of red ribbon. All of this will be out of site as nearly 5,000 parishioners make their way to and from Sunday services.
This serenity will be overtaken by chaos in earnest Monday morning at 8:30. That is when two freshly cut, 20-foot trees arrive from North Carolina for either side of the baldachin along with all of the garland.
Soon after, wreaths with large red bows will adorn the columns and hundreds, if not thousands, of flowers will grace the interior of the 75-year-old French Gothic, old-world cathedral in the spirit of the season.In addition to the main church, services are held in several other areas. In all, there will be 13 services in a myriad of places.
All of these areas will be decorated by the flower guild between Sunday night and Monday afternoon. The art in all of this is to make it look as effortless as possible as the masses stream into the church on Christmas Eve, to give the appearance that the flowers and the lights and the trees are all just part of the miracle of the season.
To the few dedicated volunteers who know better, that is their reward.
Thornton Kennedy is a fifth-generation Buckhead resident and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.