Monday, December 10, 2012

Our Christmas Traditions: The Jesse Tree

We have no room in the apartment this year for our decorations and Christmas tree. However, we did make room for our Jesse Tree along with its accompanying ornaments, because of its importance and focus on the "real" meaning of Christmas. After Alyssa's birth, I knew that I wanted to raise my daughter with a clear understanding of why we "truly" celebrate Christmas. I wanted to establish meaningful and purposeful traditions that would enable her to focus on the birth of Jesus and the coming of Christ. The Jesse Tree was the answer to my concerns and has been an advent tradition in our family for several years now. I can't think of a better way to teach children about Christmas! Alyssa eagerly awaits the stories and activities each night. 

What is a Jesse Tree? The tree is named after Jesse, the father of King David. The idea originated from and is based upon Isaiah 11:1. You can read about the Jesse Tree tradition here. Basically, a Jesse tree is an anticipatory tradition tracing the genealogy of Jesus. It serves as a visual representation of His family tree beginning with the Old Testament and ending with His birth. The Jesse Tree gently introduces Bible stories to children of all ages while constantly reminding us of God's worldly plan. I feel this activity or tradition can be done regardless of your religious beliefs. Upon further investigation, I noticed that the Jesse Tree is a useful tool and common tradition being used by a variety of denominations across the blogosphere. 
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” (Isaiah 11: 1)

Last year we crafted the ornaments. Unfortunately ... our ornaments were lost somewhere in storage after the recent move. We are using printable ornaments because I wanted to make things very simple this year. Your ornaments can be either printed as PDF files as we have done or they can be handcrafted into family treasures that will be cherished for years to come. Each ornament is symbolic representing a particular person, story, or event from the Bible. This helps children understand which people and events came before Jesus was even born making His descendants and/or ancestors known.

This post is obviously going up late in the year so please adapt the lessons or even save the idea for next year. Be sure to pin this post. It will contain a conglomeration of resources and ideas.

What Do We Do?
We add a new colored ornament to our artificial table top Jesse Tree each night before bedtime. First, we read corresponding Scripture or passages from the Bible. We may also attempt to memorize verses and add them to our Scripture Memory Card System. Next, we have a discussion about the passage read, the theme, and the symbols on the ornaments. We also sing Christian songs related to the readings. Then, we read the Jesse Tree book and end the session with prayer time. My daughter will often ask to share her special prayer at this time. The ornament is finally added to the tree. You can make this activity last longer or shorten the length depending on your family needs or desires.  

What We Use
Most of our bedtime stories revolve around the Jesse Tree during the Christmas holiday season. We use several resources but please note that the symbols and verses may vary depending on the sources utilized. 

Nicole at Tired, Need Sleep has a set or amazing, helpful resources including a 2012 schedule, prayer cards, Scripture references, and printable ornaments.

Feels Like Home Blog has a Jesse Tree devotional ebook that I will use in conjunction with the resources above. I love how she includes songs each day. For the most part, everything matches up. I do not repeat Scripture readings. I skim both resources and use them concurrently. I stored the pages in the report cover seen below. I use a tab to mark the next page so that everything is ready to go. This is geared toward younger children but can still be used with several age groups.

The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean is our main Jesse Tree book for bedtime. We have many other books that we read during advent. Check back soon for more information about our book choices. This was a book I bought Alyssa for Christmas last year after growing tired of checking it out through the library each year ... hoping it will be available when needed. The book reading is done prior to hanging the ornament. Make sure the story matches the ornament hung and stop reading at the appropriate place.

I was already working on my Jesse Tree post when I came across an exclusive subscriber e-mail that caught my attention. I was so excited when I saw that Carisa had created a Jesse Tree ebook and calendar connection cards. Click on the following links below to obtain these outstanding resources! Make sure you subscribe first! She explains this process well on her blog. These resources will become a permanent part of our advent celebrations for many years to come.

Calendar Connections
We try to do calendar time every day. One new Christmas tradition we added this year was the Jesse Tree calendar pieces available at 1+1+1=1. Carisa and Shannon made a wonderful set of calendar pieces that I will reuse every year from this day forward. Unfortunately, I am running out of ink again so I will need to reprint and laminate them next year. First thing every morning we add a calendar piece to our school calendar. We do other math related activities in addition to reading the informative cards that go with each calendar number. If we get behind for some reason, then we double up the next day. I couldn't print them double-sided so we read them and place the information cards behind the calendar cards.

Have you seen Carisa's new ebook on 1+1+1=1? You most likely haven't been able to use it unless you are an e-mail newsletter subscriber. Go subscribe because the ebook is available FREE for a limited time (12/31/12).

Jesse Tree Ornaments @ 1+1+1=1
You can also access the ornaments for a limited time. These work great on a small tree or in a pocket chart. Be sure to download and save them now because they will be part of an ebook bundle next year. Thank you so much ladies! Your work is greatly appreciated by many!

Other Jesse Tree Resources
Do you need more inspiration? More ornament ideas? More Jesse Tree ideas? Be sure to click on each links below. There are also links within each blog to further explore.

My Pinterest Jesse Tree Board - Adding more pins so check back! Several pins aren't seen below.
Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience has Jesse Tree ornaments and an advent devotional book available for subscribers. I will definitely use this devotional book when Alyssa is a little older.
Our Sunday Visitor - Free Jesse Tree Coloring Pages and More
La Dolce Vita - Jesse Tree Craft and Store Bought Ornaments
The Mac and Cheese Chronicles - Jesse Tree Ornaments
Catholic Icing - A Variety of Jesse Tree Ornaments and Resources
Balancing Beauty and Bedlam - Crafted Swap Ornaments
House Wife Spice - Jesse Tree Ornament Swap
Life in Grace Blog - How to Make a Jesse Tree and Ornaments
Domestic Church - Stick Jesse Tree
Passionate Homeschooling - Ornament Ideas
Faith Erie: The Website of Faith Magazine - Ornaments and Scripture References
Suite 101 - Symbols for Jesse Tree Activity
Reformed Church of America and Smaller Jesse Tree Patterns
Nethymnal Christmas and Advent Music - Search Jesse Tree Song Titles
Oh Night Divine - Shares a Jesse Tree Tea Menu
Shower of Roses 2009 Jesse Tea and 2010 Jesse Tea Menu
Joy Filled Family - Jesse Tree Ornaments from an Ornament Swap!
Shalfleet - Make a Jesse Tree and Symbol Scriptures
Festal Celebrations' Gallery - 52 Jesse Tree Felt Ornaments

I hope that you enjoyed reading this post. Please feel free to comment. I love hearing from my readers. Do you have a Jesse Tree? We would love to see your photos. Let us know where to find you. 

If you have any additional resources, please leave a link to the website or blog in the comment section below. 

Happy Holidays!

God bless, 


  1. Love your Jesse tree and activities! Stopping by from the TOS blog linky. I'm already a follower, as I enjoyed reading your reviews from this past year! Have a Merry Christmas!

    Cindy @ Izzie, Mac and Me

  2. Thank you so much! Your comments are greatly appreciated. The Jesse Tree is so much fun! I just stopped by your blog and commented. I hope to hear from you again.