The Jesse Tree :: A No-Sew Picture Tutorial with Readings

by | Nov 13, 2012 | Advent and Christmas, Jesse Tree | 51 comments

“There shall come forth a shoot form the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.  And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” ~ Isaiah 11:1-2

Advent is quickly approaching and I have been promising you all (for years!) close-up pictures of our Jesse Tree and Ornaments!  Well, with the long holiday weekend, I finally pulled out all the ornaments and spent some time taking pictures of each of them.   

I can’t remember exactly when I made this, it was a long time ago, before I had a blog (or a digital camera) and started documenting every craft we make. 😉 It was either in 2003 or 2004, those first few years of our marriage, with three babies in three years, are somewhat of a blur…  Anyhow, it is around 10 years old now and has been well-loved by my little ones.

My goal, when making the Jesse Tree was to have something that I would be able to use every year, but wouldn’t cost much or require any sewing.  I had considered the kit from Leaflet Missal, but even that was out of the question at the time.   Since I already had a collection of colored felt, I ended up picking up some blue and green felt from the fabric store for just a few dollars and made my own! 

  • Blue Felt for Sky/Background (mine measures 36″ x 28″)
  • Green Felt for Tree (mine measures 28″ from top to bottom and 25 1/2″at the widest)
  • Brown Felt for Stump (mine measures 4 1/2″ x 5″) 
  • White Felt for Stars
  • Various Colors of Felt for Ornaments (most of my circles are 2 3/4 – 3″ in size)
  • Scissors & Hot Glue
  • Jingle Bells 
  • Safety Pins or Needle/Thread
  • Hole Punch & Gold Ribbon or Thread (to hang the Ornaments)

The felt ornaments I made for our Jesse Tree were mostly inspired by the coloring pictures found in Advent and Christmas for the Christian Family which is part of the Celebrating the Faith in the Home Series from Emmanuel Books.

Both the tree and the ornaments are made from felt, so really the ornaments “should” just stick to the tree. However, I wanted my children to be able to hang the ornaments on our Jesse Tree so I came up with adding the “jingle bells!”  They are so fun and add such a festive look and sound to the tree.   (Plus the ornaments end up staying on the tree, rather than falling off and getting shoved down the air vent!)  
I suppose you could just sew the jingle bells onto the tree, but I wanted to (keep it as quick and easy as possible) be able to change the number of bells to coordinate with the actual days of Advent each year, unlike most Advent calendars.
Advent varies in length from 22-28 days, beginning with the Sunday nearest to the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (November 30th) and embracing four Sundays.   The first day of Advent can fall as early as November 27th or as late as December 3rd.   I currently have 30 ornaments, which leaves quite a few extra each year.  Some years I set aside the extras and other years I’ll double up and read two stories, giving the children two ornaments, on various days so that we can use them all before Chirstmas.   
We also have an additional 7 for the various O Antiphons, which we add on the days from December 17th to December 23rd. 
The first year I just tacked the felt banner to the wall, but now I have it pinned on to a long dowel, and hang it from a ribbon.  (I made the ribbon long enough to hang over and below a picture on our wall, using the same nail that the picture hangs on.  Does that make sense? You can see an example in these pictures.) 
We always use the New Catholic Picture Bible for our daily readings, though this year I will have my older children read them directly from the Bible.  (UPDATE:  I rearranged the ornaments below to more closely reflect the order in which we add them to our tree, following the readings in this book.)

The Jesse Tree provides a meaningful way for us to count down the days until Christmas. Moreover, it increases our understanding of this portion of salvation history and is an effective way to prepare spiritually for Christmas.

Here are some additional Jesse Tree Books,* Resources and Activities:

*Note: I do not own all these books, they are just various ones I’ve run across online.    

Also for those of you that would like a beautiful pre-made set of Jesse Tree Ornaments, I highly recommend Jesse Tree Treasures.  

This year I am considering ordering the Jesse Tree DVD from Holy Heroes.

.:  Our Jesse Tree Ornaments :. 

Remember, these are 10 years old and some are in need a little repair! 😉 

1. Creation
Symbol:  Earth
Readings: Gen .1:1-31; 2:1-4
NCPB: The Story of Creation, Pages 8-9

2. Adam & Eve  (When Advent is shorter, I usually combine Isaiah & Jeremiah into one day.) 
Symbol:  Apple 
Readings: Gen. 2:7-9, 18-24
NCPB: Adam & Eve in Paradise, Pages 10-11 (first half)

3. The Fall of Man 
Symbol: Serpent
Readings: Gen. 3:1-7 and 23-24
NCPB: Adam & Eve in Paradise, Pages 10-11 (second half; optional pages 12-13)

4. Noah
Symbol: Ark
Readings: Gen. 6:5-8, 13-22; 7:17, 23, 24; 8:1, 6-22

NCPB: Noah’s Ark, Pages 14-15

5. Abraham
Symbol: Stars
Readings: Gen. 12:1-3

NCPB: The Promise to Abram; Abraham’s Sacrifice, Pages 16-17

6. Melchisidek

Symbol: Bread and Wine
Readings: Gen. 14:17-20; Ps. 110:4; Heb.20

7. Isaac

Symbol:  Bundle of wood
Readings: Gen. 22:1-14 
NCPB: Abraham’s Sacrifice, Pages 18-19

8. Jacob
Symbol:  Ladder
Readings: Gen. 25:1-34; 28:10-15

NCPB: Jacob and Esau, Pages 20-21

9. Joseph
Symbol: Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors
Readings: Gen. 37:23-28; 45:3-15

NCPB: Joseph and his Brothers, Joseph in Potiphar’s House & Joseph’s Greatness, Pages 22-27

10. Moses

Symbol: Ten Commandments/Stone Tablets

Moses: Ex. 2:1-10

NCPB: The Ten Commandments and Miracles in the Dessert, Pages 39-41
Optional:  Moses, Prince and Leader, The Burning Bush, The Plagues of Egypt, The Crossing of the Red Sea and Manna in the Desert, Pages 28-37

11. Joshua

Symbol: Sword & Trumpet
Readings: Joshua 6:2-5; Jos. 1,3,6-11

NCPB: Rahab and the Two Spies; The Taking of Jericho; and Joshua Conquers the Land of Canaan, Pages 42-47

12. Ruth

Symbol: Sheaths of Grain
Readings: Ruth 2:15-17
NCPB: The Devotion of Ruth, Pages 48-49

13. Samuel

Symbol: Oil Lamp
Readings: 1 Sam. 3:1-18

NCPB: The Child Samuel; King Saul; Saul Disobeys God, Pages 52-57

14. Jesse
Symbol: Shepherd’s staff
Readings: 1 Sam. 16:1-13
NCPB: David and Saul, Pages 58-59

15.  David
Symbol: Harp
Readings: 1 Sam. 17:12-51

NCPB: David and Goliath; David Loves Saul; Saul’s Death; The City of David , Pages 60-67

16. Solomon

Symbol: Scales of Justice
Readings: 1 Kings 3:5-14, 16-28
NCPB: King Solomon; The Temple of Solomon, Pages 70-73

17. Elijah

Symbol: Raven
Readings: 2 Kings 17:2-4, 6; 2 Kings 17-18:21-39

NCPB: The Prophet Elijah; The Prophet Elisha, Pages 76-79

18. Jonah

Symbol: Whale

Readings: Jonah 2:1-2, 11

NCPB: The Prophet Jonah, Pages 80-81

19. Hezekiah
Symbol: Teardrops
Readings: 2 Kings 20:1-6; 2 Kings 18-20

20. Jeremiah

Symbol: Stone
Jeremiah: Jeremiah 30:21-22
NCPB: Isaiah and Jeremiah, Pages 82-83

21. Raphael

Symbol: Fish
Readings: Tobit 11:7-8
NCPB: Tobiah and the Angel, Pages 84-85

22. Nehemiah

Symbol: Walls of Jerusalem
Readings: Neh. 2:17; Neh. 1-7

23. Esther
Symbol: Queens Crown
Readings: Esther 2:17 

24. Judith
Symbol: Sword
Readings: Judith 13:7-10
NCPB: The Bravery of Judith, Pages 86-87

*Daniel (Optional:  This one has been missing for years and I never made another since we had plenty.  I still might do so to complete our collection again.) 
Symbol: Lion
Readings: Daniel 6:1-29
NCPB: Daniel in the Lions’ Den, Pages 90-91

25. The Angel Gabriel
Symbol: Angel with lily
Readings: Luke 1:26-38
NCPB: The Annunciation, Pages 94-95

26. Zachary and Elizabeth
Symbol: Angel
Reading: Luke 1:11-13
NCPB: The Visitation, Pages 96-97

27.  St. John the Baptist
Symbol: Shell with water
John the Baptist: Mark 1:1-8
NCPB: The Visitation, Pages 96-97 (Optional: The Baptism of Jesus, pages 112-113)

28.  St. Joseph
Symbol: Carpenter’s Saw
Joseph: Matt. 1:18-25
NCPB: The Birth of Jesus, Pages 98-99

29. Blessed Virgin Mary
Symbol: Lily
Reading: Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38
NCPB: The Birth of Jesus, Pages 98-99

30. Birth of Jesus

Symbol: Infant Messiah
Reading: John 1:1-14
NCPB: The Birth of Jesus, Pages 98-99
.:  Our O Antiphon Ornaments :. 

December 17th – O Wisdom (Jesus is Wisdom)
Symbol: Open Book
Reading: Sirach 24:2

December 18th – O Lord (Jesus is Lord) 

Symbol: Burning Bush

Reading: Ex. 3:2; 20:1

December 19th – O Flower (Jesus is the Flower of Jesse) 
Symbol: Flower
Reading: Isaiah 11:1-3

December 20th – O Key (Jesus is Key of David) 
Symbol: Key
Reading: Isaiah 22:22 

December 21st – O Radiant Dawn (Jesus is the Radiant Dawn) 
Symbol: Sun Rising
Reading: Isaiah 41:25-26 

December 22nd – O King (Jesus is King of the Gentiles
Symbol: Crown
Reading: Psalm 2:7-8; Ephesians 2:14-20

December 23rd – O Emmanuel (Jesus is Emmanuel) 
Symbol: Holy Eucharist
Reading: Isaiah 7:14; 33:22

O God, You fill us with happiness each year as we wait for our celebration of Christmas. May we also joyfully look forward to the coming of Jesus as our final Judge. We ask this of You through Jesus our Lord. Amen.


  1. Jessica Gordon

    Sure! I'll click over and add the link.

  2. Anonymous

    This is beautiful! A couple of years ago I made all of our felt shapes, but we just put them on our big white felt board each night while we read the story. It's definitely not much of a tree as all of the ornaments just end up in big rows. I'd love to make something like your tree background this year. So, how do your children hang the ornaments on the bells? Do you thread some string through each ornament or do they take off the bell and pin it on with the ornament? Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful idea, as always!!

    God bless,

  3. Jessica Gordon

    I forgot to mention that! At first I had a loop of thick gold thread tied to each ornament, through the hole – which I just made with a small hole punch.

    Over the years some of the thread broke (I'd replace it with whatever I had – yarn, ribbon, Christmas hooks) and (as you can see) some of the holes were pulled/broken. I cut them all off before taking the pictures and plan to replace it with a thin gold ribbon (need to remember to look for one when I am at the craft store next time) so that they will all match again.

    The kids just hang the loop of ribbon/thread over each bell.

  4. Mommy

    Oh how fun! I love the jingle bells!:) I make (and sell) Jesse Trees from felt and can customize the number of pockets/ornaments for those who follow the liturgical calendar. Should you ever be interested in making one for your family or suggesting another resource for your followers, please ask them to visit my site: God Bless! ~Lisa

  5. Christine

    These look great. I have a question, though. How do you cut the felt? Just scissors, or do you use some other tool that's more precise?

  6. Jessica Gordon

    I just used scissors. Then I glued the pieces to the base/felt circle with hot glue.

  7. Jessica Gordon

    Thank you! I clicked over to your site and your Jesse Tree is very pretty, and the buttons to hang the ornaments from are cute. 🙂

  8. Victoria

    Yea!I was just looking TODAY for Jesse Tree ideas to do with my 3rd grader's class. Love your site! Love your ideas! We are at an FSSP Chapel in Northern NJ and my school-aged boys go to the small school there.

  9. Beth

    Thanks for another great post. Your ornaments are beautiful!

    We downloaded/printed ornaments a couple of years ago from A Holy Experience. (I think they were also available last year, and may be available again this year). However, I look forward to the opportunity to eventually make some that will last and are a little more ornamental.

    We also chose to hang ours on an artificial mini evergreen tree which we then decorate with a star and gold trimmings on Christmas.

  10. Jessica Gordon

    It is so nice to have pretty ornaments that will last! I love how attached my children are to ours… It is still their (my older children) favorite, probably because they loved it so much when they were toddlers.

    Yes, the little artificial evergreen trees are a perfect alternative! We used one last year for our set of Wooden Ornaments from Jesse Tree Treasures. You can see it in some of our St. Lucia pictures from last year.

    I love the idea of adding a star and gold trimmings on Christmas!

  11. Jessica Gordon

    Thank you! You are so blessed to have an FSSP chapel in your area! We continue to pray that someday we might have one as well…

  12. Mama Bear, JD

    We are making ours out of Sculpey clay. I'm getting tired! I wish now that we had done felt. Thanks for the post.

  13. Anonymous

    Thank you!

  14. Jamie Jo

    Oh, Jessica, this is so helpful!! (especially for visual people like me!)
    You had to use very sharp new scissors, I always have such a hard time cutting felt! And hole punch? None of mine would cut through felt….I've got to do this! Thank you so much for posting this in such detail!

  15. Elizabeth

    You are incredible. Thank you so much for sharing this. I will be doing some shopping and cutting very soon:)

  16. Jessica Gordon

    I'm so glad that it is helpful! Helps me justify all the time I spent taking all those pictures! 😉

    I have the Hand-held Fiskars 1/8" Hole Punch and it always works awesome! For 10 years now, and I use it frequently!

    The scissors were probably new… Now I always save the newer scissors for my craft projects, giving the older ones to the kids, but none of my scissors have been really expensive.

  17. Sara

    I guess we used the same book, because mine look almost exactly like yours (down to the 3 tufts of grass on the stone) except they're made of salt dough!

  18. Jennifer Elia

    These are wonderful. I bought my daughter the Jesse Tree video from Holy Heroes (I got each of the kids in my family a little "Welcome to Advent" gift that I am going to ditribute on Thanksgiving when we are all together)which I think includes print outs for paper ornaments, but I think I am going to make these with the kids instead. It will be nice to have a set that lasts from year to year and will keep us from falling behind (as we always seem to do) because mid-December gets so busy and we run out of time to craft the paper ornaments. Thanks so much for sharing!

  19. olivia

    Thank you for taking the time to take all the pictures. It helps for those of us who are a little more challenged in the imagination department. 😉

    Every. single. year. I intend to make one for our children and I never find the time. But this is the first year without a pregnancy, a newborn or moving to a new house. I think I can manage it!

  20. olivia

    Also had to add. While the ornaments seem pricey, I have to highly recommend Jesse Tree Treasures. We bought their parable pouches for godchildren last year and we also bought their Lent and Holy Week ornaments. We love them, and are a great tradition around Easter time. I am tempted to buy the ornaments for the Jesse Tree as well. It just isn't in our budget right now. Maybe next year!

  21. Elizabeth puccio

    I would like to participate in the card swap I do not have and address ca you help me I sent email to the blog that you suggested I have not receive answer. Elizabeth puccio

  22. Becky

    Thank you for your post. I heard some Catholic moms mention their Jesse Tree last year and I didn't have any idea what they were talking about since I didn't grow up with Catholic Traditions. Your post lays everything out so clearly that I think I can make one this year. Your example is the best tool I have found to celebrate the Liturgical year with my children.

  23. Jessica Gordon

    I completely agree! I love everything from Jesse Tree Treasures! I linked to the Jesse Tree Ornaments in the post above and I am excited to add the Twelve Days of Christmas Ornaments to our collection this year! I'll be blogging about them soon. 🙂

  24. Julie

    Thank you for sharing this celebration.

  25. Anonymous

    These are so awesome! I love your Jesse Tree.

  26. Krista

    Yes, I highly recommend "Jesse Tree Treasures", too! I have the Jesse Tree ornaments, the O Antiphons, Stations of the Cross and Holy Week. I didn't know about the Twelve Days of Christmas – maybe they are new this year! I'll have to check those out! I LOVE THEIR WORK!!! LOVELY INDEED!

    Thanks for your post, Jessica – SOOOOOOO helpful and detailed!!!!!


  27. Katie

    Jessica, Thank you so much for posting this! I am excited to get to work. I had so much fun working on the Jesus tree in 2010, so now I can't wait to do more! Our family traditions are richer and more plentiful thanks to all of your inspirations and ideas. Thank you again and may God bless you and your family!


  28. Collette

    Your tree is so beautiful! What a great idea to add the jingle bells…we have always used straight-pins, and end up w/more than a few sore fingers by the end. 🙂 I am definitely going to have to add those this year! Thank you!!

  29. Lisa

    Beautiful! Where do you find such large pieces of felt?

  30. Jessica Gordon

    I guess it would be more accurate to call the large pieces flannel. It can be purchased by the yard at any fabric store. Sorry for any confusion!

  31. Elizabeth

    This is such a helpful post! I've searched for similar information in years past. Thank you so much for taking the close-up pictures of your ornaments! Sometimes I'm stuck as for how to represent each symbol. I want to look at those links too and see if I can glean anything new!

  32. CeAnne @ Sanctus Simplicitus

    Thank you for sharing your Jesse Tree idea! We are starting a new version this year which we are putting together and will have the book for sale here in the next week or so. It has all the stories in it with ornaments to print and color, copy work pages and coloring pages. AND it teaches the catechism along with the old testament stories via reprinted articles from an out of print Catechism set 🙂 If you want to read more about it and soon more details will be up too it can be found here:

  33. Jamie Jo

    Ok, I got all my supplies, including a Fiskars 1/8 inch punch, Now, I will need to do it while I pump…I also did not get a wooden dowel, I think I'll look for a stick if I can find one instead…I was looking (but ran out of time) for star buttons instead of bells…maybe next year.

    Thanks again, I'll post when it's done (I'm ambitious)

  34. Jessica Gordon

    Yay!! I can't wait to see it Jamie! 🙂

  35. Anonymous

    Hi Jessica,

    I started the advent tree traditon with my children last year. The only thing that is confusing to me is when advent is shorter and you have 30 ornaments how do you decide or know which ones to use? I would appreciate you help God bless you!!!!!

  36. Jessica Gordon

    Well, our family always ends up just using them all – doubling up some days with two or three ornaments. I'm not sure that helps much… 🙂

  37. Jamie Jo

    Jessica, quick question–I know you are busy, but for Day 5–Abraham, Paper Dali has mountain tops, on the paper Jesse Tree symbol, and you have stars. For that reading Gen 12:1-3, how do those symbols make sense? I can't just do something, I need to know the meaning….In my Jesse Tree book…can't think of the author…the orange book, they use a camel for the symbol…hmmmm, might be hard to felt that one! haha!

  38. Jamie Jo

    OK, got the hole punch, (at Wal-mart) I am thinking that 2 holes would work better, since it's attached with pins…or am I doing this wrong?

    (arent' I a pain?)

  39. Jessica Gordon

    I think you lost me here… 🙂

    I used the hole punch to add one small hole to the ornament to string a loop of thread or ribbon though to hang the ornament from.

    I used the mini safety pins to attach only the bells to the banner. Does that make sense?

  40. Jessica Gordon

    When I think of Abraham, I always think stars (even though it isn't mentioned in our readings – though I have read Genesis 26:4-5 to my kids as well) – I guess I should add that to this post:

    "I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give to your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves: because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept charge. my commandments, my statues, and my laws."

    I suppose mountains would tie in to the above quote as well, since it mentions "all these lands".

    Can't wait to see the rest of your ornaments! They are turning out so beautifully!

  41. Jessica Gordon

    I'd love to see it when you are done! 🙂

  42. Jessica Gordon

    Elizabeth! I somehow missed seeing this email until now… I am so sorry about that! Hopefully you were able to get ahold of Kimberlee through her blog?

  43. Unknown

    Beautiful post, Jessica! I love the pictures…and the jingle bells! I assume you attach each ornament with the safety pin that also attaches the bell at the same time? So happy to read your post…and an impressive list of resources. 🙂

  44. Julie

    I love this post. It gives me a good reference because I was so confused at why our different Jesse Trees have different symbols and different amounts….
    My new favorite is the one I have that does the 25 days of December. Easy to do each year no matter how many days of Advent. The last 7 are O'Antiphons, which is nice too.
    We are doing the Holy Heroes Jesse Tree DVD and coloring ornaments too. Bella loves them!

  45. Kristin

    Thank you thank you for this explanation. It is the most clear Catholic explanation I've found as I try to wrap my brain around organizing this for my family this year! On the days where the O Antiphons apply, do you put two ornaments on the tree… One from the lineage and one representing the antiphon? Thank you so much. May the Lord continue to bless your beautiful family.

  46. Unknown

    Because I do not have a sewing machine I LOVE the creative simplicity of this craft.

  47. Unknown

    Being that I do not have a sewing machine makes me love the simplicity of this craft.

  48. Amanda L.

    Jéssica muito obrigada pela contribuição, vou fazer isso para meus filhos aqui no Brasil. Saudações!!

  49. Anna

    Jessica, thank you for this great resource. I am attempting to put together my own Jesse Tree ornaments and the readings to go with them. I have looked at several versions and can't seem to find why the symbol for Jeremiah is a stone? If you can explain this, I would really appreciate it! Thanks so much!

  50. Jessica Gordon

    Good question! It isn't included in the bible verse we read, but I think it's referencing a couple other chapters from the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah buried stones at the entrance to Pharaoh's palace to symbolize the fate of the exiles in Egypt as well as Egypt's fate in Chapter 43:8-10:

    8 And the word of the Lord came to Jeremias in Taphnis, saying:
    9 Take great stones in thy hand, and thou shalt hide them in the vault that is under the brick wall at the gate of Pharao's house in Taphnis: in the sight of the men of Juda.
    10 And thou shalt say to them: Thus saith the Lord of hosts the God of Israel: Behold I will send, and take Nabuchodonosor the king of Babylon my servant: and I will set his throne over these stones which I have hid, and he shall set his throne over them.

    He also wrote the fate of Babylon on a scroll and instructed Seraiah to read the message in Babylon, tie a stone to the scroll, and throw it into the Euphrates, symbolizing Babylon's doom (Chpt 51:63):

    Jeremiah's Prophecy to Seraiah
    59The word that Jeremias the prophet commanded Saraias the son of Nerias, the son of Maasias, when he went with king Sedecias to Babylon, in the fourth year of his reign: now Saraias was chief over the prophecy. 60And Jeremias wrote in one book all the evil that was to come upon Babylon: all these words that are written against Babylon. 61And Jeremias said to Saraias: When thou shalt come into Babylon, and shalt see, and shalt read all these words, 62Thou shalt say: O Lord, thou hast spoken against this place to destroy it: so that there should be neither man nor beast to dwell therein, and that it should be desolate for ever. 63And when thou shalt have made an end of reading this book, thou shalt tie a stone to it, and shalt throw it into the midst of the Euphrates: 64And thou shalt say: Thus shall Babylon sink, and she shall not rise up from the affliction that I will bring upon her, and she shall be utterly destroyed. Thus far are the words of Jeremias.


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