With each passing day we are coming closer and closer to the start of the Advent season. One of the best ways to celebrate Advent and prepare for Jesus’s birth is to read and reflect upon the story of Jesus with a Jesse Tree. Traditionally used in medieval times to help teach the Bible to those who couldn’t read, Jesse Trees are a fun, interactive way to teach your children the story of Christ.
Jesse Trees usually have 24 ornaments to represent the 24 days of December before Christ’s birth. Each ornament has a special symbol that pairs with a suggested scripture reading, starting with creation and leading all the way up to Jesus’ birth. As a family, you will read from the Bible and hang the associated ornament on the tree each night to count down the days.
Some families choose to purchase a Jesse Tree and ornaments, but making your own Jesse Tree as a family can be a fun way to kick off the Advent season. To help inspire your own Jesse Tree creations, we gathered six easy DIY Jesse Tree tutorials from Catholic craft experts.
1. Felt Jesse Trees and Ornaments
If you don’t have room in your home for a physical tree, you can easily create an image of one using layers of colored felt.
Jessica Gordon of Shower of Roses has a great tutorial and picture guide for creating your own felt Jesse Tree. First, cut a large rectangle of felt to serve as your background. Then, using green and brown felt, cut the shape of a Christmas tree and glue (or sew) it onto your background. You’ll want the tree to take up most of the background space as it will need to house all 24 ornaments.
For the ornaments, Jessica’s examples are inspired by coloring pictures she found. If you need inspiration, consider using Catholic Culture’s reading and symbol suggestions. Then take several colors of felt to cut and piece together your symbols and glue them onto a circular background to create your ornaments.
Once the ornaments are complete, hang your tree on a wall in your home and stow your ornaments nearby so you can easily tack them onto the tree each night after a scripture reading.
In addition to Jessica’s detailed and easy to follow instructions Jesse Tree tutorial, other crafters like Caryn Talty, Jen Frost, and others offer their own guides, too. Check them out below:
(Image credit: Shower of Roses)
2. Printable Jesse Tree Ornaments
If you you’re not one for sewing or fabric, a printable Jesse Tree is one of the easiest options.
Using cardstock or scrapbook paper as a backdrop for your Jesse Tree, shape and cut a Christmas tree from green colored paper and paste it onto a background. Another option is to purchase a mini Christmas tree or use a tree branch from your backyard to hang your paper ornaments onto.
As for decorating your tree, Lacy Rabideau from Catholic Icing or Caryn Talty of Healthy Family offer free printable ornaments that are both cute and creative. You can either print the ornaments in color, or color them as a family with markers. If you selected 3D printable ornaments, make sure you color them in before you start folding the shapes.
With the ornaments finished, it’s time to find a place in your home to hang or set your tree.
(Image Credit: Catholic Icing)
3. Painted Jesse Tree Ornaments
If you want to make your Jesse Tree ornaments a little more artistic than felt cut outs or printed paper, you can easily paint them as a family following Young Catholic Mums’ excellent tutorial.
For starters, make sure you have a tree or branch to hang or pin your ornaments onto. With that out of the way, you’re going to need paint, paint brushes, wooden disks, varnish, and string.
The first step to create your ornaments will be to punch a hole into the top of each wooden disk (each disk will be an ornament). This will help you hang or attach your ornaments to the tree. Then, start painting your ornaments with the appropriate symbols. To protect your ornaments, make sure to finish them off with a varnish.
Once you’re happy with your ornaments, thread them with string and store them near your Jesse Tree for easy hanging.
(Image Credit: Young Catholic Mums)
4. Iron-On Jesse Tree Ornaments
Another way to easily create beautiful Jesse Tree ornaments is to iron the symbols on using printouts and special adhesive.
Crafty Catholic mom, Kendra Tierney offers two fun and easy tutorials on how to create the best iron-on Jesse Tree ornaments on her blog Catholic All Year. To start, printout the 24 symbols you want to use for your ornaments. Because you will be ironing them on, make sure you print them in the correct color and size.
After printing, cut 24 felt circles of the same size and iron on special HeatnBond fabric adhesive to the felt. Once the adhesive is on, pin the printout onto the felt circle and trim your printed design with a pair of scissors. With the design arranged and cut, it’s time to fuse it all together with the press of a hot iron. To avoid burning the felt or melting your design, only use the iron for a couple of seconds, Kendra says.
You can either use the ornament as is, or you can choose to give it some dimension. To do this, place another felt circle underneath the ornament, add a bit of stuffing in between the circles, and sew the edges together.
(Image Credit: Catholic All Year)
5. Clay Jesse Tree Ornaments
As Théa Rosenburg of Little Book Big Story points out, clay Jesse Tree ornaments are both timeless and fun-to-make.
To begin, Théa suggests using air-dry clay, toothpicks, a set of permanent markers, and string or ribbon. Using air-dry clay, mold your ornament by creating a circular medallion. Before it dries, poke a hole in the top of your medallion with a toothpick so your string or ribbon will fit for threading.
Once the ornament has dried, draw on the symbol using permanent markers. For the best drawings, try practicing ahead of time and use thin-tipped markers. After you’ve finished, you’re ready to thread the ornaments with string or ribbon and store them near your Jesse Tree.
(Image Credit: Little Book Big Story)
6. Clothespin Jesse Tree
To get a little more creative, try using clothespins and a clothesline to create a unique Jesse Tree for your home using Pamela Donnis’ fantastic tutorial.
On Pamela’s blog, Keeping Life Creative, she suggests starting with colored construction paper and cutting 24 squares of several colors. This will serve as the background to your ornaments.
Then, printout 24 symbols for your ornaments. Make sure the printout is colorful and sized correctly as this will be the main part of your ornament. After printing, trim the paper to fit your colored squares and glue the designs onto the construction paper.
Once finished, hang a clothesline on your mantle, wall, or another space for the whole family to see. After you’ve finished reading scripture each night, use the clothespins to secure your ornaments to the clothesline creating a special Jesse “Tree” for your family.
(Image Credit: Keeping Life Creative)