Our Jesse Tree is one of my favorite Christmas traditions. If you celebrate Christmas and are looking to put meaning back into the season for your children, this is a way to focus your family daily through an interactive experience with Bible stories.
Here’s how to bring a Jesse tree into your house this December.
It’s a November Project
The Jesse Tree Project works best when it’s ready to go pre-December 1st. The project consists of daily readings from various stories in the Old and New Testament that lead up to the birth of Jesus, read on Christmas day. Each day’s reading has a related ornament that captures the essence of the story. The ornaments are hung up daily on a “Jesse Tree.” All of the daily readings can be found here. The ornaments need to be made, thus the reason to start in November.
Let this project build community
The project spans 25 days. That means 25 ornaments. If you and your family enjoy being crafty (and the Google Search: Jesse Tree Project makes you start rubbing your hands together), then ornament making could be a fun project to spread over November. But whether you are crafty or not, another fun way to approach this project is to band together with a small or large group of families who also want the season to be less secular.
If you have five families, then split the days up with each family taking five. Each family plans to make five types of ornaments, five copies of each. Families then meet up to kick off the project, brainstorm ways to make it fit into everyday life, and share the ornaments made.
The project also fits well into a church family. There, you might have as many as 25 families participate. In this setting, each family takes one ornament, but makes 25 copies. Use this chart to assign ornaments.
It was the latter way that our Jesse Tree Project was born back in 2013. We had about 20 families at our church participate, and I then recruited my mom and a few out of town friends to round out the group. The unanticipated benefit is that now not only are my kids excited to see each day’s ornament, but they also are connected to who made each one. “Oh, that’s Anna Kate’s rainbow.” And friends who have since moved away are still a part of our yearly tradition.
How to make it stick
Are you worried it would be hard to carry the project through December? Here are some tips:
- Get your Jesse Tree before December 1. Your Jesse Tree can be a dead branch or a live little tree. If you have your tree and your readings printed out by November 30th, then you are ready to roll.
- Decide what time of day is most consistent in your house and commit to doing the Jesse Tree reading at the same time every day. Do you always eat breakfast together? If mornings are too crazy, what about dinner or before bedtime?
- Add a little intrigue. For us, that has been grabbing one piece of tissue paper and every night wrapping up (i.e. folding into the tissue paper) the next day’s ornament and leaving it on our table. That simple step heightens the anticipation.
- Involve the whole family. Alternate who reads. Alternate who hangs up the ornament. Because I did enlist my mom in making an ornament, she also has a full set of ornaments and participates along with us, which was great the year we were at my parents’ house for Christmas!
- After Christmas, pack up your Jesse Tree ornaments in a labeled box. You know how easy it is to lose things like this!