How to Start a Jesse Tree Advent Tradition

How to Start a Jesse Tree Advent Tradition | Roots & Boots

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A few years ago we decided to start a Jesse Tree advent tradition and it’s become one of our favorite parts of the Christmas season.

Mom tip: If you’re reading this in December, it’s obviously too late to work in a Jesse tree advent tradition this year…BUT you can plan for next year.  By making all the arrangements now, you can coast right into next year’s holiday season and surprise your family with a new Christmas tradition! 

How to Start a Jesse Tree Advent Tradition | Roots & Boots
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What exactly is a Jesse Tree?

A Jesse Tree is a special way to observe the advent season, telling the story of God’s great plan of redemption from Creation through the birth of Christ.  It usually begins on December 1st, with a Scripture reading or story each day and a corresponding ornament to hang on a special Jesse Tree.

The name comes from Jesse, the father of King David, and the idea comes from Isaiah 11:1 “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.”

For my family, the Jesse Tree advent tradition has been a good way to stay focused on the real meaning of Christmas throughout the holiday hustle and bustle.  As we hang each of the 24 ornaments on our Jesse trees (we had an existing set of three primitive trees that turned out to be perfect for our Jesse tree ornaments, especially since we have three kids), it really helps to build a sense of anticipation for the birth of the long awaited Messiah.

How to Start a Jesse Tree Advent Tradition | Roots & Boots
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How to Start a Jesse Tree Advent Tradition

Four decisions to make or gather:

  1. Ornaments: purchased or homemade
  2. Tree: tree, stand, or branches
  3. Readings: Bible, children’s Bible, or advent book
  4. System: time of day and location

Step 1: Choose your ornaments

There are so many ornament options for your new Jesse Tree advent tradition.  If you’re crafty and can spare the time, you might decide to craft your own ornaments from felt, clay, wood, or other materials.  If you’d prefer to purchase ornaments, my favorite source is etsy, with my top choices linked below.

How to choose?  Start by asking yourself three main questions:

  1. Do you want to make the ornaments yourself or purchase them premade?
  2. What level of quality are you looking for?  Quick and easy?  Heirloom pieces?
  3. Do you prefer reading directly from Scripture or would your family enjoy a children’s Bible or a special advent book?

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Jesse Tree advent ornament options

1. DIY ornaments

Making your Jesse Tree advent ornaments yourself can save money but will obviously require more time and effort.  Several etsy shops offer inexpensive patterns for paper or hand stitched felt ornaments.  You can also purchase unfinished wood ornaments and decorate them yourself or shape ornaments from polymer clay.

2. Premade ornaments

Premade Jesse Tree ornaments are more expensive but will save time, and are available in felt, wood, and other materials.  The set we use at my house is linked below, in step three.

  • felt – colorful felt shapes
  • clay – hand-sculpted clay figures
  • wood – painted wood slices

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Step 2: Choose your tree

You’ll need to hang your Jesse Tree advent ornaments on some sort of tree.  While you could add them to your family’s Christmas tree, most families designate a special, smaller tree exclusively for the Jesse Tree advent tradition.

Here are a few simple ideas:

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Step 3: Choose your readings

This step really happens in conjunction with step one as you choose your ornaments because many Jesse Tree ornaments come with designated advent readings.

We love our painted wood slice ornaments that correspond with readings from The Jesus Storybook Bible.  The same shop offers a set that corresponds with Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift advent book, or a traditional set with designated Scripture readings.

Wood slice Jesse Tree ornaments:

Each ornament set includes a handy card printed with the corresponding daily readings.

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Just in case you’re curious…

Personally I am not a huge fan of storybook Bibles* or even advent books because of their tendency to embellish the text.  We use The Jesus Storybook Bible for our Jesse tree advent tradition only, and not for regular Bible readings throughout the year.  In my opinion, it works great for this purpose, especially if your family includes younger children (about 3-7).

Our youngest is 4 this year, and I think in the next year or two we may switch over to reading our Jesse Tree advent stories directly from the Bible.  When we make the switch, it should be simple to continue using our same set of ornaments thanks to the included list of Scripture references.

*The only story Bible we wholeheartedly endorse is this one by Catherine Vos.  It’s excellent for family read alouds and in our experience it works well for ages 4 or 5 and up. 

How to Start a Jesse Tree Advent Tradition | Roots & Boots
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Step 4: Make a plan

I’m a big fan of systems and routines: identifying a time and place for daily Jesse Tree activities will help you follow through on your new tradition.

Time of day

Pick the time of day that works best for your family.

Last year we did our Jesse tree advent readings at dinner time, because that was when we were most likely to be together.  This year breakfast is the best option now that Dad is working from home.

…but be flexible, especially if you’re a task-oriented type-A person {ahem}.

Mr. Native Texan meets with a group of guys every Thursday morning, so on Thursdays we either do the Jesse Tree without him or wait until lunch or dinner when we’re all together again.

We also missed three days this year due to a scheduled trip, so we just doubled up on a few days to catch back up.  Easy peasy.

Aren’t you proud of me for being so flexible?  I’ve come a long way…

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Keep it simple!  Place your ornaments, tree, and book of choice close to the place where you’ll read each day.

Our trio of trees is right next to the dining table, the ornaments are in a special wooden bowl at the end of the table right next to the trees, and The Jesus Storybook Bible is in an iron stand next to the head of the table.

And that’s it!  Pick your ornaments, your tree, your readings, and make a plan for where and when to practice your new Jesse Tree advent tradition.  It just might become one of your family’s favorite Christmas traditions!

Do you use a Jesse Tree at your house?  How does your family celebrate the Advent season?


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Kathleen | Roots & Boots

Let's get real! I’m Kathleen Henderson, your Natural Living Mentor. I’m on a mission to help families see the joy in real food, while finding natural remedies and creating a nontoxic home. Learn more about my story >>

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