Friends, have you noticed? Christmas is just around the corner. This Sunday marks the first Sunday in Advent. It's the first of four Sundays that lead us right into Christ's birth.
I've seen so many adorable Advent calendars (that begin on Dec. 1) like this one, and I want to share a different kind of countdown we use in our house. I made these for my parish with about 100 other families last year, and it's a super fun family craft to make and keep for years to come.
Have you heard of a Jesse Tree? It's a way to get the kids involved in the countdown to Christmas while learning more about the family tree of Jesus. Through each ornament, from creation through the Old Testament. Usually a Jesse Tree would be made from branches with ornaments hung from the branches. We made ours in the form of a banner that can be easily stored from year to year.
We used our family hands to create the tree. With our family of five, we had each person trace their right and left forearm and hand. We became the branches from which the (velcroed) ornaments hang. I adore that I will have those little hands forever captured as the tiniest of branches.
Wanna make one? Here's what you need:
- 1 yard of purple felt (it's a traditional Advent color)
- 1 yard of brown felt for the limbs and trunk
- Printed or drawn symbol ornaments
- Velcro to attach
- Dowel and ribbon/twine to hang.
- Fabric glue or hot glue
Lay out your felt and trace forearms and hands. Cut out and arrange limbs on purple felt. Cut out a rectangular trunk to fill out the bottom of the tree. Glue down. Print and cut symbols. Laminate and add adhesive velcro (only one side is needed to stick to the felt) to the backs. Wrap the top two inches of the purple felt around the wooden dowel and glue down the edge. Knot off twine or ribbon from the dowel to hang. Viola! Keep your waiting ornaments in an envelope near your prayer booklet until they're ready to be used.
Currently our ornaments are paper. My oldest daughter has expressed a desire to recreate the images so I'm looking forward to capturing her artwork this year or next and making these circles a little bit more time-resistant.
All of these supplies are incredibly easy and affordable for bulk buying if you want to make a lot of Jesse trees at once with your Church or school group.
The Diocese of Erie has a lot of helpful Advent resources, and our ornaments and the booklet I created came from their writings. Find the complete set of reflections plus small and large versions of the ornaments here. All of the illustrations by Carolyn Pikoulas and text by Anne-Marie Welsh for Faith magazine, published by the Diocese of Erie.
Ann Voskcamp and Nancy Rodden also have a great free printable book that includes full color illustrations of each symbol and examples of very cute felt ornaments can be found over at a Shower of Roses.
Here's the copy of the booklet I created for our Church and our home. We keep it on the dinner table and add an ornament every evening (when we also add a piece to the Nativity scene and light the Advent wreath - we're all about evening traditions). The booklet takes you through what symbol to add for the day and even bring the Scripture in so that you only have to go to one place for the reading and reflection. I promise the this ritual won't add more than 2 minutes to your dinner time, and you might be surprised by how quickly this activity helps (you and) your children get a handle on the major stories of the Bible.
How do you count down the days? Do you have a special calendar or tradition to take you through Advent?