Non Solum: Christmas Flower Donations

Today’s Question: Christmas Flowers Donations

How does your parish or community handle donations for flowers to decorate the church at Christmas? Many places acknowledge donations in the bulletin, and these may be given in honor of or in remembrance of a loved one. What do you do with excessive donations, an undue display with too many flowers, and lack of simplicity ? Is there is a sensitive way to limit or refuse donations?

Moderator’s note: “Non solum” is a feature at Pray Tell for our readership community to discuss practical liturgical issues. The title comes from article 11 of the Vatican II liturgy constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium: “Therefore there is to be vigilance among holy pastors that in liturgical action not only are laws for valid and licit celebration to be observed, but that the faithful should participate knowingly, actively, and fruitfully.” (Ideo sacris pastoribus advigilandum est ut in actione liturgica non solum observentur leges ad validam et licitam celebrationem, sed ut fideles scienter, actuose et fructuose eandem participent.) May the series contribute to good liturgical practice – not only following the law, but especially grasping the spirit of the liturgy!


  1. Would that churches had excessive donations. Try giving the prices for per plant, per tree, per wreath, per yard of pine garland in the appeal for Christmas flowers. Save “excess” donations for after the greens and plants are dead and gone, to have flowers for each of the Sundays of Epiphany up to Lent, so that things aren’t bare and people don’t get the “after Christmas blahs” in church as well as at home once everything comes down. “Simplicity” doesn’t necessarily mean “less” either.

  2. We publish the names (with memorials/honorariums if desired). We are VERY clear that half of what’s given for Christmas/Easter flowers/environment is used for environment throughout the year.

  3. In our little parish, we take our Stewardship of Treasure very seriously (not saying others don’t), thus we have absolutely ZERO donations for flowers, no fees for sacraments (weddings included), faith formation, etc. Everything goes into the Sunday collection, as part of regularly sacrificial giving. Thus, not an issue for us. Thus never a surplus, nor shortfall. And when people ask if they can make a donation, the response is easy, “feel free to include it as part of your regularly gift to the parish.”

    But, I’ll note, it’s very lucky we have one parish family owns Christmas tree farm, so they donate trees to our worship space, and the attached low-income housing facility.

    Plus, of course, it ties nicely in with Sacrifice of Time and Talent: everyone is welcome to come and help prepare the environment for Christmas as well.

  4. For both Easter and Christmas our “offertory envelopes” provide an envelope for flowers/decorations and people may contribute with the names of those they would like remembered. It is clear that any excess is placed in our flower/decoration fund for other times of the year. There is no “second collection” for these envelopes, people simply place it in the collection basket if they wish. I find that people like to give to particular collections, even if a parish describes itself as a stewardship parish. Thus we have second collection envelopes for all the major second collections and specific needs for the parish, such as our St. Vincent de Paul Society fund and when these are calculated into the overall annual budget, it is usually more than 10% of the total budget.

  5. We also have envelopes in our regular packet. No special collection, people just use them if they like. We invite those who contribute online using EFT to make a donation as well, with a one-click easy button.

    We budget for some of the cost of poinsettias, evergreens, trees, etc., but usually donations cover all of the cost, and the budget is just that much healthier. Occasionally we have surplus, and we use it for other plants/flowers throughout the year. We don’t explicitly say this, but if anyone asks, we tell them, and no one seems to object.

    We, too, are moving towards being “fee-free” and eliminating the “nickel and dime” stuff in favor of enhancing Sunday giving. But, as others have noted, people really appreciate the chance to give to special things like this, and to make that donation in honor of or in memory of something/someone. So, as long as it continues to be as big as it is, we keep doing it.

    Along the same lines, we are beginning to invite families to contribute cut floral arrangements for each Sunday of Ordinary Time, in honor of or in memory of something/someone. We’re offering “first dibs” to families who are celebrating wedding anniversaries, baptisms, or other special rites/occasions on a given weekend. They give us a set amount of money, our art & environment team handles the ordering of flowers, making them work with what’s already in the sanctuary, and season of the year.

    BTW, one parish near us expanded their “special holiday envelope” thing to include a “Christmas music” envelope that they use to fund brass players, timpanist, etc. that they hire in for Christmas Eve/Day. By all accounts, it funds a professional brass quartet and timpanist for all 6 Masses on the Nativity!

  6. We ask for donations to help with Christmas Flowers and Music. People are asked to put their donation in a white envelope labeled “Christmas Flowers” or “Christmas Music” and place it in the basket at offertory (or drop it off at the office). We do not publish names in the bulletin. Excess has never been a problem, but if we had some, it would go toward the liturgy/music budget for the rest of the year.

  7. I have seen some overdone Christmas decor in churches. The whole sanctuary can get packed from stem to stern with red poinsettias, then a week later they are drooping, then by Epiphany all are gone save for a handful that somehow survived. Something has gone wrong when the altar ends up being a backdrop for a sprawling nativity scene, flowers and candles which dominate the sanctuary.

    1. @Scott Pluff – comment #7:

      For years my church had so many fir trees with lights the celebrant was buried in a thicket of trees. Then last year we adopted a more restrained use of cedar and balsam trees and wreaths. with just red bows, real candles , and no blinking little white lights.

      Gone are the banks and banks of poinsettias in front of the altar and lining the sanctuary. Now we a few vases of red roses mixed with the natural trees using white candles. Pine sprays are used in the windows with white candles in a clear glass container surrounded with holly.

      Gone also is the creche. Formerly, it was buried in the banks of the poinsettias in front of the altar. Our parish council decided to have a beautiful icon of the Nativity on a stand draped with a rich gold cloth with a lamp in front of it. It was set off by small pine trees. This stayed up last year until after Epiphany.

      Funds for flowers are either directly donated by individuals , or taken out of the collection kitty. No mention is made in writing or verbally of the donors by name. The pastor and assistants usually thank the anonymous donors at each Mass before the sermon.

  8. Our church has a an envelope in December for flower donations. Donors are listed in the church bulletin. I believe the donations are used for flowers not only for Christmas but year around.

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