Today in the Catholic faith we begin the season of Advent. Advent is the prayerful season in which we prepare for the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on Christmas morning. The word actually means “coming” or “arrival”. It starts four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. It is a wonderful time to come together to learn about our Catholic faith, to draw close as a family, and to prepare our hearts for Jesus’ birth.
There are many ways to celebrate Advent and our family participates in several of these customs. We have an Advent wreath on the kitchen table. Each Sunday we light a new candle and talk about its significance. There are three purple candles, one pink, and one white candle. The purple and pink candles represent hope, peace, joy, and love. The white candle is the Christmas candle and signifies that Christ is here! It is exciting to get to light a new candle each week and the kids look forward to it.
Another tradition we celebrate is to put out our shoes on the evening of December 5th for Saint Nicholas to fill through the night. When the kids wake up on the 6th they find their shoes have been filled with little candles and treats. It is a wonderful way to remember the real “Santa Claus”. We talk about why St. Nicholas began leaving money and gifts for others and we tie it in to our everyday life, reminding the kids that like St. Nick, they too should always do for others.
This year we are starting a new tradition. When I was a child I went to a Catholic grade school that did a huge Jesse Tree each year. For many years I have tried to incorporate this tradition into our Advent season. I have always failed. I don’t know why but I suppose it is that I’ve just gotten too busy and it is pushed aside. This year is different. We are all set and ready to do read the Bible stories each night and decorate our little Jesse Tree with homemade ornaments. I thought I would share a little about the Jesse Tree with you in case you’d like to do this too!
A Jesse Tree tells Christ’s ancestry through Bible stories and images. The images remind us of God’s promises to us. The first ornaments recall the heaven and the earth’s beginnings and we end with naming Jesus as “Light of the World”. Each night we read a story and then place that ornament on the tree. By Christmas Eve our tree will be full of ornaments which show God’s love through creation, through Christ’s ancestors, and through the gift of Jesus’ sacred birth so many years ago.
Want to make your own? I’ll show you what we’ve done for ours. Perhaps you’ll be inspired too!
First, I visited this website to download images to make the ornaments.
We colored them.
Don’t forget to punch a hole at the top so you can string your ribbon and don’t forget to write the Bible verses and days on the back!
We laminated them.
We cut them out and gave them each strings.
We chose a small 3 foot tree as our Jesse Tree.
And we started hanging the first ornaments today.
The Jesse Tree is such a welcome addition to our family’s Advent celebration. We are very fortunate; our children have never been materialistic. While they understand that Christmas is a birthday and not just a day to get presents, this activity will help us focus even more on the “reason for the season”.
While we have a few other plans for Advent to enhance our celebration, we are really excited about our Jesse Tree.
What plans do you have to make your Advent season special?