Yesterday marked the beginning of the Advent season. Baptists traditionally don't observe too many events of the liturgical year, so growing up, my family did not participate in Advent activities. In fact, I had never seen or heard of Advent candles until I was 17. I thought the idea of special readings or activities that led up to Christmas was a neat idea, but I preferred my tradition of counting down the days until presents.
When BB arrived, I began to be interested in establishing family traditions that served to make Christmas meaningful instead of materialistic. One of the ways I found to do this was through the use of a Jesse Tree. In my research about Jesse Trees, I have found that some follow the 25 days in December that lead up to Christmas, while others follow the complete period of Advent, which can start in November. For my family, we currently follow the shorter Jesse Tree, although we may switch once BB is older.
Jesse Trees can be complex or simple. You can buy a kit that you piece together by following instructions, disposable ones that you color and throw away after Christmas, pre-made ornaments through a specialty website or store, or you can just do what I did and make your own based on the daily readings. I made our Jesse Tree ornaments out of felt, some Sharpie markers, thread, double stick tape and hot glue. My ornaments look rustic, but if BB happens to destroy or lose some ornaments, I'm out a few cents. As you can see by my picture, you don't have to have any artistic talent to make these ornaments!
I store our Jesse Tree ornaments in this Avent calender that I purchased last year at a Christian Bookstore. This year, I've noticed that Target carries several different varities of Advent calenders that are a lot cheaper than the one that I bought! You don't have to store your ornaments in a special box, I simply do it to create some excitement about the ornament for the day. We spend perhaps 5 minutes each evening on our Jesse Tree. Each night when we have family devotions, we read the day's reading and then reveal the ornament for the day. The readings that we use are very short, ideal for young children. There are more elaborate readings available and many Christian bookstores sell books with the readings and enrichment activites. I picked our readings based on length (short) and cost (free). If you click on the links throughout this post, you will come across many of the different choices available. When your Jesse Tree is complete, it will look something like this, if you pick a rustic tree to match your rustic ornaments: