Jesse Tree *UPDATED*

*{Hey, are you here looking for the scavenger hunt clue?  Scroll on down to the next post…}

I’ve written before about our Jesse Tree, my family’s best-loved Christmas tradition.  I get lots of e-mails and Google searches on the subject year-round, believe it or not, so I thought I’d answer a few of the questions that have come up when I’ve discussed it in the past.  This has been such a meaningful tradition for our family, and it is not hard to implement–you can make the whole thing as simple or as involved as you’d like. 

What is a Jesse Tree?

It’s a way of celebrating the Advent season that addresses, in particular, how the Old Testament stories all pointed to the coming of Christ.

Where does the name come from?

Isaiah 11:1-2

So how does it work?

There are several different versions of the Jesse Tree tradition.  In our family, we begin on December 1.  Each day, we read a different Old Testament story (beginning with creation on December 1 on through the nativity on December 24).  Corresponding to each story is a small ornament, representative of that particular story (here is a more detailed description of our ornament set).  After our brief reading we hang the ornament on a small, two-foot, table-top Christmas tree.  By Christmas Eve, we have a tree full of ornaments!

Where do you get the devotions?

I started with this and have adapted it over the last few years; I simply printed out a hard copy and have put it in a folder.  You will find on-line several different collections of devotionals; many have been written over the years.  Do an Amazon or Google search on Jesse Tree for some ideas. 

**UPDATED TO ADD**  I only just learned this morning that one of my very, very favorite bloggers, Ann Voskamp, has written a Jesse Tree devotional (you can see it here).  And I don’t know if you regularly read Ann (you should) but she writes so amazingly that I suspect even her grocery lists are poetic.  Definitely check out this resource!

I’m not crafty.  Is this out of my league?

Not necessarily.  You can keep it pretty simple!  You can buy Jesse Tree kits online if you’re pressed for time, but gathering the ornaments myself was part of what made it so meaningful to me.  The website we use offers patterns (found here).  You could use these to cut out ornaments from felt, foam or paper.  I probably did four or five of my ornaments this way.  I also bought several at craft stores (many of them, such as Hobby Lobby, put their ornaments on sale for half off very often, and you can easily get pretty ornaments for a dollar or two each).  I tried to get clever on a few–for example, for the story of the Fall, I found a little plastic apple and glued a plastic snake to it.  For Joseph’s "coat of many colors", I found some striped fabric and cut it out in the shape of a coat.  For the devotional about how the prophets told of the coming Messiah, I bought a sparkly key (as in, "the prophets were unlocking the future").  See?  There’s no end to how you can put your own interpretation on this.

This has been an incredibly meaningful tradition for our family–these quiet moments in the middle of an otherwise busy season are a treasure.  Does anyone else do this in your own family?  If you have any additional resources you’d like to share, please leave them in the comments section!

41 thoughts on “Jesse Tree *UPDATED*

  1. carlyn says:

    Shannon! I am sooo happy you posted this today! We have been searching for an advent calendar to use that incorporates the birth of Jesus into the days (and not just a ploy to get candy every day). This sounds like an amazing and awesome option! Thank you!

  2. Stacy D says:

    I *heart* our Jesse tree. We have just finished our 2nd annual Jesse Tree Ornament Exchange at our church. Twenty-five ladies each choose one ornament from the list and make a set of 25 of it (ex. 25 stars or 25 crosses). We then get together for an evening of food and fellowship. Each woman stands up and tells her crafting tale of how her ornament came to be and shares a Christmas tradition in her family. At the end of the night we walk around the table collecting one of each ornament and walk away with a complete set and full hearts. Some keep their sets and others give them away to other families to share the Good News with their children. It has truly been such a blessing!

  3. Jill says:

    We did the Jesse Tree last year. My family loved it and we got so much out of it.
    We just followed an on line version-printed out the ornaments and put them on a little artifical tree on our kitchen table.
    I’m so excited that this year our Church is doing this for our family advent activity.
    We are making little felt Christmas trees and then giving them the ornaments to put on with Glue Dots.
    Should be fun to see others get into this wonderful activity.
    Your post last year got this all started.
    Thank you!!

  4. Ann Voskamp says:

    As always, perfect inspiration, Shannon.
    We’ve tried various versions of the Jesse Tree and a few years ago settled on this one, with beautiful color ornaments to simply print. We share it here:
    View Sample pages here:

    Click to access Jesse%20Tree%20Devotionals-sample.pdf

    Book here:
    E-book here (immediate download and begin printing):
    And the best part: all personal proceeds from this Jesse Tree project support Samaritan Purse’s Operation Christmas Child!
    Merriest of Christmases, dear friend!

  5. Robyn (3girlsmom) says:

    I grew up with the Jesse Tree tradition and would love to bring it back for my girls.
    We only had one issue with our Jesse Tree – my mom hung it on the door that separated the kitchen from the den. And it was a felt Jesse Tree. So every single solitary time someone passes the Jesse Tree swiftly enough to conjure up a little wind, all the little felt ornaments scattered across our brick floors. Often causing ice rink level slipperiness on the brick floors. I think I spent more time picking up the ornaments and putting them back on the tree or busting my behind on an ornament that was overlooked than I did studying about its significance.
    Oh, the memories.
    Just call us the Griswolds.
    I think I’ll use the same tree for my girls, but use velcro, too.

  6. Octamom says:

    I love this–we’ve done a variety of different devotionals, etc. during the Advent season–but this one feels like something that would make family tradition–thanks so much for sharing this.

  7. Celly B says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your tradition, along with the resources and your ornaments. I had heard of Jesse trees before, but seeing your family’s personal ornaments made me visualize how this tradition could work for our family. I am off to hunt down and create our own ornaments.
    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Crystal says:

    I love the Jesse Tree idea. I already have an advent tree but I think I’ll still do the devotions leading up to Christmas.
    I actually got my idea for an advent tree from a scrapbooking website. I made paper ornaments, many with pictures of family members, and we hang one on the tree each day. In addition I made a special December journal/diary. I record what we do everyday in December. I can fit two years on one page so it is easy to compare how last year’s December 10th compares to this years’ December 10th. I don’t keep a journal or diary the rest of the year so this is a fun thing for us to look back on as the years go by.

  9. brandy says:

    Wow! How cool! My kids are 2,4, and 5 and it looks like this could be easily adapted to their attention spans–keep it super simple for now, and tell the full stories as they grow. Right now we just have candy/sticker pockets, and this sounds like a lovely addition.

  10. becca says:

    I’m so grateful that you posted this! I was just online last night looking for Thanksgiving traditions to start with my young family. This is a perfect start for Christmas. Sadly, it’s hard to find ideas that are actually centered around Christ! I’m so excited to do this. My oldest son and I are having a Mommy & Will day today, so I think we’ll go start collecting ornaments! We live close to both sides of the family, so we often get wrapped up in family get-togethers. It’s really important to me to have traditions that are special to our little family of four, and not to have everything revolve around our extended families’ celebrations. This one is perfect!

  11. Lorie says:

    Our church does what Stacy D wrote about. The book we use is “The Advent Jesse Tree: Devotions for Children and Adults to Prepare for the Coming of the Christ Child at Christmas” by Dean Meador Lambert. My family will be doing it for the first time this year.

  12. Becky says:

    My family has a Jesse Tree that we did every year. Ours wasn’t an actual tree, but a felt one with felt ornaments. I like the idea of a real tree even better!
    I always thought it was invented in our family.

  13. Shannon (Shades of Shannon) says:

    Thanks for this reminder. I have a beautiful advent wreath that I’ve attempted to celebrate advent with each year. I think my children were too young in previous years (think ‘using the candles as swords’). Now that they are all a touch older and in elementary school, I’m going to attempt it again. I’ve heard of the Jesse Tree before from a pastor’s wife and would love to look into it more. Thanks for the links.

  14. Lauren says:

    After reading about your Jesse Tree last year I knew I wanted to start this tradition with our family. My son will be 3 this year and I think he will really enjoy the Jesse Tree! Best part is- I bought a small tree last year about a week after Christmas for 90% off!!

  15. Shana says:

    Oh. My. Gosh! I was just working on putting our Jesse tree ornaments and devotions yesterday. You probably had several searches yesterday just from me alone. So, thank you for posting again, it was very timely. We’re using the devotions that you linked to, but I was confused as to why some years were different than others. For instance, 2007 did not include Daniel and the Lions, or Esther. I guess, in future years, I’ll see what the devotions are and substitute an ornament if need be.
    I am so very excited about doing this with my family. I hope it becomes a much anticipated tradition with the kids, that will really drive home the real meaning of Christmas.
    Thanks again.

  16. TRS says:

    I went to Catholic School as a child and the teachers would use Jesse Trees for our Advent lessons.
    They were just bare branches (Sticks in a coffee can really!) and all the ornaments were handmade of construction paper or felt.
    Very sweet.

  17. Robyn says:

    We just started reading about the Jesse Tree, so I printed the list you started with. I’m looking forward to working on our own tree as a new tradition.

  18. Anna says:

    We did the Jesse tree starting last year. I found a book all about it and it had you make the ornaments with embroidery. That is not my thing, but more sculpture type stuff is, so I made our ornaments out of Polymer clay. The kids helped me and we all loved it.
    We would make the ornament up a few days ahead… and bake it so it would be ready to hang on the actual day. On the day of, we would do our scripture reading and hang our ornament.
    I think it is a VERY meaningful way to celebrate Advent.

  19. Jenn says:

    Thanks for the fantastic idea. I’ve never heard of this before but my husband and I are due to have our first baby any day & what better time to start a wonderful tradition like this? We’re very excited about really delving into the Word everyday leading up to Christmas and about having the tree as a visual reminder of our lessons! Bless you!

  20. Julie says:

    We’ve loosely gone through Lambert’s Jesse Tree book the last two years (our kids were really too young to know that we lacked some ornaments). I got excited last week to discover an ad for coffee in a magazine that resembled a burning oven – it will be transformed into a fiery furnace ornament.

  21. Jen@Balancing Beauty and Bedlam says:

    This is one of our favorite things as well. We, too, did the Ornament exchange, and I have now participated and organized it three times. I have five children and want to have a set for each of them when they get married. It has been wonderful to have heirloom ornaments, as well as variety, since every lady has done a slightly different twist. My blog post will be going up shortly about it. I am still on the Thanksgiving traditions. ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Lucy says:

    I don’t do the Jesse tree for Christmas (yet) but I do have one that I use for Lent. I’m working on adapting it for the way my family practices Lent (we’re Eastern Orthodox) but I have found that to be a really cool thing.
    I’d love to do the Jesse Tree for Advent, too. Thanks for posting this!

  23. Melissa says:

    This sounds great. Because we were trying to sell our house last year we didn’t do any Christmassy stuff – not even a tre so I said to Hubby I want to do more this year. I’ll have to look at doing this. Thanks.

  24. Penny says:

    I too have searched your blog high and low gleaning Jesse Tree ideas. In fact last year, I remember seeing a link to another blog where a mom ‘needle felted’ her JT ornaments…I am still searching to find that resource – any ideas?
    I cannot locate a fabric shop near me that sells needle felting supplies (I believe this is the term), so on-line resource is most appreciated.
    Thank you – this is such a beautiful tradition!

  25. sara l. says:

    Hey Shannon! Do you by chance have your copy of the devotions saved on your computer that you could email me? Thanks so much! Have I told you how much I LOVE your blog lately? You always have the greatest ideas!

  26. shelbi says:

    i just shared a post on the inspired rooms blog about our christmas traditions ๐Ÿ™‚ and the jesse tree has been one of our very favorites now for years! what a wonderful post on them! i am going to check out annes site. thank you for the tips!

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