November is half over already, and the season of Advent is fast approaching. Now is the time when we are trying to make our Christmas gift shopping lists, plan out Christmas sewing – outfits and gifts alike, design our Christmas cards, and get things organized for the upcoming holidays. Ideally, many of these tasks will be finished before Advent starts four Sundays before Christmas. We can then spend our time throughout the Advent season preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ and experiencing the calm, joyful expectation of the season in the peace of our home with our family. One beautiful tradition that we are incorporating into this liturgical season is the Jesse Tree.
The Book of Isaiah predicts the coming of a Messiah from the line of Jesse, father of King David. “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump* of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom (Isaiah 11:1). From this comes the concept of the Jesse Tree – a tree on which hangs a collection of symbolic ornaments that represent various chronological stories in Salvation History from Creation to the coming of the Savior. For example, the coat of many colors represents the story of Joseph, the ladder is for Jacob, and the basket in the water is for the story of baby Moses. Our particular set of Jesse Tree ornaments also correspond with the O Antiphons which are traditionally sung from December 17th through December 23rd. On each day in Advent, Bible verses are read and the corresponding ornament is hung on the Jesse Tree. Slowly, as Christmas approaches, the tree is filled up with ornaments and we have time each day to reflect and prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ.
To create these ornaments, I used a lovely kit from Three Jolly Owls on Etsy. This set contained everything we needed to make the ornaments – detailed instructions, cutting guide, readings guide, and templates in addition to the supplies for the ornaments – 3.5″ pre-cut felt circles for 24 ornaments, felt sheets in 10 colors, pre-cut ribbon, and sequins. The assembly process is left to the discretion of the maker so even a non-sewist could easily make them by using glue to attach the pieces. For those who have an over-abundance of craft supplies on hand (and are willing to hand-cut 48 circles of felt!), just the downloadable tutorial is available as well.
I personally cut out all the tiny shapes of felt to form the designs, but sewing them to the felt circles was a fantastic family project for me to do with my kids who are all under the age of 9. Most of the shapes were stitched down with a simple “up down up down” basting stitch using a couple strands of embroidery floss. It was simple enough that even my preschooler contributed by sewing this saw ornament. He was so very proud of himself for being able to sew something ‘real’! He has been preparing for this day by practicing with his wooden sewing cards because even superheros need to know how to sew to mend their capes, right? Around here everyone learns to sew!
When we finished sewing all the designs to the ornaments, I sandwiched the ribbon loop between the front and back layers and sewed them together with a sewing machine. We opted to sew everything instead of gluing to make them more durable for coming years and less likely to be destroyed by a curious toddler. I just love the final result and we are all excited to use the ornaments to decorate the bare tree branch that we found.
Does your family have special Advent traditions? I’d love to hear about them! And be sure to check out Three Jolly Owls – in addition to Jesse Tree kits, she has amazing saint peg dolls and other items!
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