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Posts Tagged ‘Jesse Tree’

More than Christmas, more even than Easter, Advent is my very favorite liturgical season.  Part of my affection for Advent stems from my beautiful memories of Catholic school celebrations, but I also love it for how simple it is to incorporate the celebration of this special season into daily life.

When I was very young, opening the doors on our Advent calendar each December morning before school was my earliest introduction to the season of Advent.  This is a delightful way to harness children’s anticipation of Christmas to teach a lesson of joyful and patient waiting.   Over the years there have been times we had a calendar for every kid ready to go on December 1, and other times we weren’t on the ball managed to find the very last available calendar a week into Advent.  This year I’ve got two all ready to go:  one scriptural retelling of the Christmas story that I bought at Catholic Door and one chocolate from Trader Joe’s.

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Another treasured tradition in our home is the decorating of the Jesse Tree.  I loved doing this every Advent morning when I was in grade school, and have enjoyed incorporating it into our family celebration.  We got our first set of ornaments at our church’s annual Advent workshop (another long-time tradition), and they were all the more treasured because they were colored by little hands.  When we lost them to fire, I found free printables online–there are many to choose from.  Or you could buy this beautiful set my friend Sara has made.

Most years we manage to have an Advent wreath.  The biggest challenge is having the right color of candles. (Note to self: check Amazon tomorrow for candles)   The next challenge is that we don’t eat dinner together every night, so some nights the candles don’t get lit.  But I like seeing them there just the same.

Probably our most important Advent tradition is what we DON’T do.  While the secular world and mostly Protestant East Tennessee are happily partying long before the guest of honor has even arrived, in our home we continue to wait.  No, we don’t bah humbug all the Christmas events happening outside our home–we go to the downtown tree lighting the day after Thanksgiving as well as many other fun local events that we look forward to year after year.  But at home things are different.

Right after Thanksgiving I remove the gourds and other harvest items from the mantel and put out simple votive lights.  Along with our Advent wreath, these will be our only seasonal decorations until about a week before Christmas, and the tree will go up later than that.  I may not hold off on the Christmas music quite that long, but for at least half the month we will be listening to Advent playlists.

We don’t do all these things every year.  Sometimes we fail at Advent rather spectacularly!  (The one we are the very best at is not putting up the decorations early!)

What about you?  How do you celebrate Advent?  For more ideas, click the picture below to read other posts in the Catholic Women’s Blogging Network blog hop.

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Three of my kids in front of the statue of the Blessed Mother at St. Joseph School

I’m a Catholic school veteran—16 years all told.    I sent my three oldest children to the same parochial grade school I attended.  Catholic schools have Religion class every day along with Math, English, and Social Studies, and that’s great—but what’s even better are the little ways in which faith is part of EVERY class, the way that it can be talked about or brought to life at any moment.  Even more than actual religious education, this to me is the gift and the value of attending a Catholic school.

At this holy time of year—and by “time of year” I mean Advent, not Christmas—my thoughts always turn to early December mornings at St. Joseph School.  The whole school went to Mass every morning—our sanctuary revealed by the opening of a curtain, our pews a cafeteria full of folding chairs.  And afterwards we filed out—all 200 of us—and gathered in the front hall of the school.

I remember mornings as darker in those days.  Certainly they were colder, and with wall radiators providing the only heat we shivered in our red cardigans.  But what happened on those Advent mornings was a source of light and warmth to me.

There was—still is—a little elevated area next to the office, full of rocks (that we were forbidden to play with and always did), with a statue of the Blessed Virgin in the middle.  During the Advent season, Mary was joined by a tree, a cedar tree I believe, that served as a Jesse Tree during Advent and, briefly, as a Christmas tree right before the winter break.

Jesse was King David’s father, and Jesus was descended (by adoption) from David’s line.  The Jesse Tree custom involves the hanging of a different ornament on the tree each day, and the reading of a Bible verse.  The ornaments and verses tell the story of Jesus’ ancestors and foreshadow the coming Messiah.  The way I remember it, the first one every year was a stump, and the verse was something like, “A new root springs from the stump of Jesse.”

One of the big girls (in my memory they are adults, even though now I realize they were just little girls, eighth graders) would hold up the felt ornaments for all of us to see as the verse was read.  Then Sister Janice (our principal) would start one of the Advent songs—The King of Glory, On Jordan’s Bank, or O Come O Come Emmanuel.   We all knew them by heart.  And we’d walk slowly back to our classrooms, singing as we went.

I don’t know how everyone else felt about it, but to me it was magical.  I looked forward to it every year.   So when my three big kids were little, we cut out and colored our own Jesse Tree ornaments.  For many years, we hung an ornament on my favorite house plant each evening before supper.  We lost the ornaments when our house burned down, but Lorelei and William willingly colored a new set  so that we could continue the tradition for years to come.

This post originally appeared on my friend Lacy’s blog.  If you are looking for Christmas gifts, you should check out her handmade necklaces here.

 

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