Christmas craft bags (advent count down)

25 days of Christmas crafts

In December we finish up our normal school routine and get right into the Christmas spirit. Along with our daily Jesse tree readings, traditions we are continuing from past years and special outings, I like to prepare a stack of craft activities ahead of time.

I find my ideas, (Pinterest is an awesome source for this) do all the prep needed for 6 children to make one each and place everything into large paper bags. When we want to do a craft I simply plop the bag on the table with nothing to do other than gather some glue, textas or other basic items that we are using every day and can’t be assigned to a single bag. In the past, the children didn’t know what was in each bag but this time I will be attaching a photo to the front so that I can decide which one I can cope with at the time. Some are much more involved than others.

I would love to post photos here, but as they are other people’s ideas you will need to follow the links to see them or have a look at my Pinterest Christmas board where there is a pinned picture for almost all of the crafts, plus quite a few more! I also prepared some simple colouring pages with stickers for the younger children to work on while the older ones are doing the more difficult crafts or pre-prepared crafts ahead with only the decorating left for the little ones so they feel like they made it themselves. Three older children wielding hot glue guns at once means I am not always able to supervise the little ones at the same time! Oh, and if you don’t own a glue gun now is the time to invest. I just got 2 more for $7 each and they are awesome. Don’t try to craft without one! Trust me; I was sure I didn’t need one for quite a while but once you have one there is no going back!

jesse tree jewels finished IMG_8790

  1. Paper strip Christmas tree for Jesse tree
  2. Christmas activity books for quiet times. Most of the pages for these came from here (scroll down) here (scroll down to Christmas) and here (type nativity and Christmas into the search bar for heaps of results.)
  3. Electric tea-light covers – cone shaped Christmas trees. Inspired by a picture that turned out to be papier-mache with holes drilled in and sanded off. Far too much work I say! I am tracing a cone template onto glittered card stock and using a hole punch plus a scrapbooking tool to punch a variety of hole sizes to let the light through.
  4. Paper chains. No explanation needed here! The children plan to make enough to go around the entire house. Needless to say, I cut my own strips rather than purchasing prepared ones.
  5. Clove decorated oranges. Some beautiful examples here and here. Use a zester that makes strips of peel for the patterns before adding cloves.
  6. Wooden dolly peg Mary Joseph and Jesus
  7. Giant popstick snowflake decorations. We hung these outside our front door last year. Must have a hot glue gun to make drying fast or lots of patience with white glue.
  8. Ribbon Christmas tree card
  9.  Jewel decorated line drawing Christmas trees. I have bought sticky jewels so this will be very simple. A quick drawing following the style of the example and some jewels on the branches for baubles.
  10. Felt Christmas tree with decorations All the children will cut out decorations for the large felt tree backing which will then be left out for them to play with and redecorate as they wish.
  11. Delicate string Christmas trees I have pre-made the cardboard cones and covered them with plastic kitchen wrap. Paint the plastic covered cones with white glue and wrap with string. Ensure that the strings cross over each other for a strong result. Once well-covered, paint over the top of the string with white glue and allow to dry thoroughly overnight before removing the cone and plastic carefully from underneath.
  12. Natural branch Christmas trees We will have to go on a nature walk to collect sticks for this.
  13. Sequin decorated foam baubles I have a variety of plain, flower and star sequins for this activity. I purchased a packet of shirt pins with tiny coloured round ball ends but any pin with an end that won’t pull through the sequins will do.
  14. Pasta noodle angel choir These are so cute. We will experiment with different facial features. I can see a whole village developing!
  15. Split pin and string Christmas tree cards This wall sized version gave me the idea but I shrunk it and used split pins to make the outline of a Christmas tree on the front of a card. The children will wind glitter string back and forth. The split pins need to be placed into the card loosely so there is enough room underneath then to fit several turns of string.
  16. Popstick stable and silhouettes I copied the silhouettes into Word and chose format picture – adjust picture, black and white 75% to get a strong black and white silhouette to cut out. Hot glue gun popsticks or coffee stirrers {same thing but cheaper because they are not a craft supply!} together to make the stables and add some card backing with sticker stars.  I am going to show the older children the example and let them go nuts creating their own stables. May turn into mansions…. we’ll see!
  17. Variety of nativity scene colouring pages. (Search google images for nativity colouring pages, they are everywhere.)
  18. Bauble Christmas cards An easy card requiring nothing but a little patterned paper and ribbon.
  19. Strings of fingerprinted Christmas lights Controlled finger-painting experience! Could use ink stamp pads rather than paint or even bingo dotter markers.
  20. Wooden peg stars These look very effective. We added glitter last year and made some beautiful ornaments. Even the natural wood alone is pretty.
  21. Popstick tree Last year I bought some foam popsticks which we will use instead of wood because they can be easily cut with scissors to make the various sizes required for this tree.
  22. 3 wise men popsicle ornament Oversized popsticks (or paint stirrers) are used for these with a couple of scraps to decorate. We will use felt off-cuts for beards and dot stickers for the faces rather than painting the popsicle sticks.)
  23. Paper strip flower decoration A good use for left over paper chain strips – if there are any!
  24. toilet roll flower wreath Collecting lots of toilet rolls in a household of 8 is never a problem 😉 These do look very pretty and are so easy to make – IF you have a hot glue gun. Get one!!
  25. Jesus in a toilet roll manger We will wrapping felt pieces around a wooden dolly peg for Jesus and laying him in the toilet roll mangers filled with shredded gold tinsel. (Upmarket hay for our baby Jesus!)

 What crafts are you doing this Christmas?

Other posts you may find helpful:

Mummy’s Christmas shop – how to organise gift giving with lots of siblings

Receiving gifts, thankfulness and good manners

Christmas “to do” list; making sure those traditions happen

Our Jesse tree symbols for advent 2013

jesse tree jewels finished IMG_8790

Christmas is fast approaching and with it, the advent season. In our family, we try to make this a special time to focus on Jesus in the lead-up to Christmas day. This year we are making a magnetic Jesse tree to count down the 25 days of December. The clear jewels that are stuck over the top of the tiny pictures have a magnifying effect that make the simple picture symbols look quite spectacular. We will read the bible reading to go with each symbol and the older children will design their own pictures, while the younger kids will colour in the ones I have already pre-drawn for them.

Jesse tree symbols 2013 jewels

If you would like to use our pictures, I have uploaded a printable version here.  (You are welcome to print the pictures out for your own use, however please do not re-post these on any other blog; feel free to link back here.) Don’t forget to check the size of your jewels and adjust the print size of the pictures accordingly. Jewels can be found at discount variety stores and are usually with the candles or artificial flowers.

The tree backing is simply strips of coloured paper glued down and laminated. If you can find a couple of complimentary scrapbooking or wrapping paper patterns that would be ideal. To glue the jewels down, we used white PVA wood glue. Just make sure that whatever you use, it dries clear or obviously your pictures will not show through well. I found round magnets and used the same glue to attach them to the back after the pictures were dry.

There are lots of suggested readings available online, but the ones I used you can print here. (I fit my readings into the 25 days of December, rather than actually following advent and there are a couple of extra readings and symbols on this list than I needed. Ignore the days of the week and just choose the ones that match the printable symbols from above or make up your own.)

If you would like to see another version of a fairly traditional Jesse tree from previous years, see here or for a different take on Jesse trees, see our names of Jesus Jesse tree symbols.

Other posts you may find helpful:

Jesus trees, lent and Easter traditions for a Christian Easter; minus the bunny.

Making those traditions happen; a “to do” list of wonderful memory making ideas

Christmas debrief and next year’s plans

Christmas “to do” list: Making sure those traditions happen

5 decorating Christmas tree 2012 IMG_7268In light of my Christmas resolutions from last year, I have decided to get a jump start on Christmas planning and organisation by making a master list of everything I need to do before the start of December and Christmas day itself. Christmas traditions are wonderful but they do take planning and effort to make them happen. My resolutions were something along the lines of:

  1. Next year I will have everything done well in advance.
  2. I will be able to sit back and relax and enjoy the season WITH my children, rather than running around like a headless chook organising things FOR my children.
  3. I will get around to doing some of those amazing ideas I pin to my Pinterest Christmas board.
  4. I will keep the traditions we have started in the past going.

Grand sentiments I know but ones that I am determined to make happen this year. Most of the ideas on this list are explained more fully in this post, so have a read there if these sound a little cryptic. I actually plan to use today’s list for me, but hopefully it inspires you to make this year something special as we focus on Jesus as the reason for the season.

  • Make my gift list. Who I have to buy for, what I have already purchased and what I plan to purchase. I will keep it in my purse and carry it with me. No more being in the shops and seeing an awesome special and not buying it because I have forgotten that I need to buy for my cousin’s new baby. It will also stop me seeing the awesome special and buying it for my cousin’s new baby, only to remember later that I already have a gift tucked away that I have forgotten about. (See “Tools not Toys” for some gift inspiration.)
  • Place online orders. We are purchasing more online gifts each year. With the limited budget we allocate for children of extended family, we’d rather purchase quality reading material than the junky toys our budget would include.
  • Purchase or make Christmas cards, take and print family Christmas photo and address envelopes. It’s been several years since we have sent out Christmas cards due to lack of organisation rather than an unwillingness to do so. This year will be different!
  • Order new Christmas books and wrap our collection. Each year we add a couple of new titles to our collection of precious Christmas stories. These are wrapped individually and the children take turns to open one each day for story time. Since they are packed away each year, the stories stay fresh and interesting and bring back happy memories from the years before. Opening them like a gift adds to the excitement.
Bible reading scrolls to go with each name of Jesus.

This contact covered toilet roll Christmas tree holds the bible reading scrolls to go with our Jesse tree symbols for advent. With 25 holes, it is just the right size. (And with 6 children in the house, we had no trouble at all saving up 25 toilet rolls to make it!)

  • Purchase materials to make our jewel magnet Jesse tree symbols for this year. Make a list of matching readings from the Jesus Storybook Bible. In the past couple of years we have used a fairly traditional Jesse tree and a names of Jesus Jesse tree. This year we will be designing our own miniature pictures to accompany the daily reading and gluing them under jewels with magnetic backs. These will be added to a Jesse tree backing on our magnetic whiteboard and used as a daily count down as we listen to the bible readings. Pictures and a free printable black and white version to colour in will be posted soon.
  • Dig out the next book in our advent reading (for fun) series. Grandpa’s Box was brilliant (one of my favourite stories and broken into short sections that are perfect for advent) and we thoroughly enjoyed Jotham’s Journey. This Year we will be following on with the second book in the series; Bartholomew’s Passage. The stories are broken into daily readings for the advent season and leave the children hanging on the edge of their seats and begging for more.

25 days of Christmas crafts

  • Set up Christmas craft bags. Last year we had a craft for every day of December and the children loved making them. We didn’t get all the bags finished though and some have been tucked away to do this year. We will probably go for around 15 different activities this year as we simply had too much on to get through one every day. I have all the preparation for 6 lots of the craft plus an example or picture done beforehand so that I can plop the bag on the table and know that there is nothing to do other than perhaps get the glue and scissors out.

rd to bethlehem camels

  • Check dates for Road to Bethlehem. A church in our area puts on a fabulous walk-through Nativity play. You follow a guide from station to station as the story is presented in parts with amazing sets and costuming. They really go all out, with camel rides and  activities beforehand and lots of great food. The children love it and it is the perfect event to invite friends and family who are not Christian along to. Check out the church programmes in your area, you may be surprised at the free events you can attend.
  • Stock our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes to send overseas to needy children. The kids had a ball choosing all the little gifts to put inside.
  • Plan our neighbourhood outreach gifts. We like to deliver small gifts with the Christian Christmas message of God’s salvation through Jesus in a variety of formats to everyone in our street. We also include our church’s Christmas service times and contact info. You never know who will decide to come along at Christmas time.
  • Buy our Ikea gingerbread house in readiness to turn it into a stable. If you cut the front wall into 2 pieces and have them open out like window shutters on each side it makes a great stable. Use the chimney pieces to make an awesome manger without even having to cut them!
  • Decide on a Carols in the Park event and mark it on the calendar.
  • Mark Lights in the Heights on the calendar; Perth Christmas lights display;  8th to 20th Dec at C3Church Hepburn Heights.
  • Print golden tickets and plan for our Christmas lights express trip. The children are put to bed early and with squeals of delight, find their golden ticket. We will all then jump in the car and head out for a tour of the best Perth Christmas lights displays. My inspiration for this came from here. She has some great ideas like taking hot chocolate and snacks,  playing carols in the car and there are even printable tickets to hole-punch as the children climb aboard.
  • Book a date with Nan and Grandad for Christmas lights on the water. Last year we were very blessed to have my parents take us out on their boat for a trip around the canals to admire the lights from the water. It was a wonderful way to spend some time with them and something different for the kids. Not to mention the amazing light display.
  • Stock our Mummy and Daddy shop with small items for the children to purchase for each other. This is how we manage sibling gifts in a large family.

B shepherd costume livingstone concert aug 2011 016

  • Rehearse our family nativity play. We have not managed to put one together yet and it is way down the list, but maybe this year. The children would like to act out “Jesus’ Christmas Party” if we can pull it off with our limited cast.
  • Organise our ladies high tea. Send out invites, menu plan, cook, games, decorations and place settings; the whole works. This is something we started a couple of years ago as a lovely way to bless others. We invite a bunch of elderly ladies from church along (who we usually barely know) and hold a fancy high tea just because. They love it and our older children love being waiters and waitresses for the event, taking their roles very seriously.
  • Set up a Christmas card prayer box. This was a nice idea I came across a couple of years ago. Instead of figuring out how to display the Christmas cards that come in, place them in a basket on the table and pray for the senders of the latest one before the evening meal.
  • Fill advent calendar. Ours is a wooden box calendar with magnetic nativity pieces to add to a stable scene daily throughout advent. I add a couple of treat surprises on random days.
  • Buy nativity set. We like our decorations to point to Jesus and have started a nativity collection. While we are doing teeth and getting ready for our evening time together in the loungeroom after dinner, those who are ready can play with the nativity scenes with the lights off and Christmas tree lights and advent candles lit. Add some Christmas music and it is a wonderful atmosphere.
  • Purchase spare nativity. We would like to do a knock and run 12 days of nativity with the neighbours one year. Unfortunately nobody around us has children, but the adults may still enjoy it.
  • Set up the advent wreath and candles. We light the candles each year and watch them burn while we read our advent book for the night. We discuss the symbolism of the different coloured candles leading up to the birth of Jesus.
  • Print Christmas activity books. I trawl the internet for Christmas themed dot-to-dots, mazes, puzzles, colouring pages and the like to make printed activity books for those times when a little quiet table time is in order.
  • Repair any broken decorations. Yes, I know it would have been easier to do it last year before we packed them away but that didn’t happen ok!
  • Plan thank you cards ahead. Address and stamp them so there is no excuse to send them in March (like last year!)
  • Find the Christmas music. We have several CDs of Christmas worship music and carols to play throughout December.
  • Trial any new Christmas recipes and plan some favourites to take as our contribution on Christmas day.
  • Watch the Nativity cartoon: The Christmas story according to the bible . A cute little 5 minute cartoon for kids with a Christian message that shows children with humour what the bible actually says happened at Christmas.
  • Set out the Christmas videos. We try to use these sparingly but on the days after some of our special late-night outings, a little chilling in front of a vid is needed.
  • Hold the tree decorating ceremony. Usually on the first of December but depends on when Daddy can be home to participate. Video proceedings and have the youngest child place the start on top of the tree as per our tradition..

Seeing it all down on paper makes me realise why I am always so busy at Christmas, but with a little forward planning all these special things will come together. We can always drop some out if it gets too much, but at least the most important ones will happen. These traditions will be what our children remember in the years to come and make this period very special for us as a family. Plus, I love it too!!

Our “Names of Jesus” Jesse Tree

Bible reading scrolls to go with each name of Jesus.

Bible reading scrolls to go with each name of Jesus.

If you are looking for different ideas for a Christmas Jesse tree, family devotions, family alter, bible study or daily circle time, then studying some of the many names of Jesus with your children can be a great learning experience.

You can make it as simple or elaborate as you like. We used this idea for our Christmas Jesse tree this year so I prepared everything ahead of time; including printing out the bible readings and making small scrolls with them (see photo above) and making or buying a symbol for each name of Jesus and wrapping them all individually.

Wrapped Jesse tree symbols

Wrapped Jesse tree symbols

Each morning during our family circle time, one child found the bible reading scroll of the day and wrapped symbol. As we read through the verses, everyone listened carefully and raised their hand as soon as they heard a name of Jesus. (Some readings had more than one in them.) After finishing the scroll they guessed which name we were looking at today and what the symbol could be, briefly discussed what that means to us or what it teaches us about Jesus and then opened the symbol to hang onto the Jesse tree.

The names, symbols and bible readings that we used are photographed below. A few of the readings do not have the name in them directly, but add related information and there are probably many more that could be added.

J tree 1st born

1. Firstborn of every creature (Colossians 1:15-20 1 Corinthians 3:9-15 ESV) {This is supposed to be a race ribbon for first place. A plastic trophy or medal would work well.}

Alpha and Omega

2. Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:7-8 Revelation 1:12-18 Revelation 21:5-7 Revelation 22:12-14 ESV) {These are swizzle sticks – just an interesting way to display the A and Z as the English equivalent of alpha and omega.}

Mighty Warrior

3. Mighty God (Isaiah 9:6 Isaiah 63:1 Deuteronomy 10:17 Job 36:5 ESV) {Popsicle sticks shaped and glued to make a sword.}

Everlasting Father

4. Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6 Hebrews 1:8-12 ESV) {This is our earthly Father}

Prince of Peace
5. Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6 Ephesians 2:13-17 ESV) {Peace Christmas decoration.}

Unspeakable Gift
6. Unspeakable Gift (2 Corinthians 9:10-15 John 4:7-10 ESV) {Another Christmas decoration.}

Lamb of God

7. Lamb of God (John 1:29-36 Hebrews 7:27 1 Peter 1:14-19 Revelation 5:6-14 ESV) {Plastic lamb.}

Shepherd

8. Good Shepherd  (Psalm 23 Matthew 2:5-6 John 10:1-18 Revelation 7:17 ESV) {This is the corner piece from a metal coat hanger – a small tent peg would work just as well.}

Jesus is born Bethlehem star

9. Bright and Morning Star (Revelation 22:14-17 2 Peter 1:17-19 ESV) {Our usual tree topper}

Anointed One

10. The Christ/Anointed One/ Messiah (Matthew 16:13-17 Acts 4:25-28 Acts 10:37-38 ESV) {We thought this ornament looked like a jar of anointing oil.}

Holy

11. Holy One (Mark 1:21-26 Acts 3:11-16 ESV) {The music is the hymn Holy Holy Holy. I googled images for “holy holy holy” and several choices came up. I just dropped it into a word document so I could size it to fit the music note ornament.}

Light of the World

12. Light of the World (Revelation 21:22-27 John 8:12 John 12:35-36 ESV) {They give these battery operated candles out every year at carols in the park events.}

The Word
13. The Word and Wonderful Counsellor (John 1:1-5 Revelation 19:11-13 Isaiah 9:6 ESV) {This is a dolls house miniature. I had to buy this online and it was a little expensive but we all love it. It actually has the new testament printed inside and you can read it with a magnifying glass.}

Servant

14. Servant (Matthew 12:17-18 Mark 10:43-45 Acts 3:26 Philippians 2:3-11 ESV) {Small craft wooden dowels with ricrac hot glued onto one and wool on the other- a servant’s tools.}

King of Kings

15. King of Kings Lord of Lords (Isaiah 33:22 Zechariah 9:9 Zechariah 14:16 Revelation 19:11-16 ESV) {This came off a broken Princess headband.}

The Vine
16. Vine (John 15:1-11 ESV) {A regular Christmas ornament.}

Lilly

17A. Lily of the Valley (Song of Solomon 2:1 ESV) {An artificial lily flower.} We did two symbols today because there is only one small reading for the lily.

The Door

17B Door [of the sheepfold] (John 10:7-10 John 14:6-7 Psalm 118:19-21 ESV) {These craft sticks came with the small dowels I used for the scrolls. Regular popsicle sticks would do nicely.}

Friend

18. Friend (Matthew 11:16-19 James 4:4 ESV) {We talk about their siblings being their best friends regularly.}

Saviour

19. Saviour (Luke 2:8-14 John 3:16 Acts 4:12 John 4:39-42 Hebrews 7:27 ESV) {Another regular ornament.}

Ancient of Days

20. Ancient of Days (Psalm 102:25-27 Daniel 7:9-10 ESV) {An old broken watch.}

Branch/Stump/Root of Jesse

21. Branch/Flower of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1-2 Jeremiah 23:5-6 Romans 15:12-13 ESV) {A twig from the backyard.}

The Rock

22. Rock & Cornerstone (Psalm 62:5-7 Ephesians 2:18-22 ESV) {Another backyard find in a bag so we can hang it.}

Lion of Judah
23. Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:1-5 ESV) {This is actually a plastic tiger and the children keep insisting you can tell the difference!}

Faithful and True (The reading talks about Jesus returning on a white horse)

24. Faithful and True (Revelation 3:14-16 Revelation 19:11-12 ESV) {This verse talks about Jesus riding on a white horse.}

Baby

25. Baby/Son of God/Son of Man (Luke 2:8-18 ESV) {From last year – a cross-stitch of Jesus in the manger.}

Other posts you may like:

Our Jesse Tree (traditional style)

Advent and Christmas traditions

Christian families and Father Christmas

 

Christmas debrief and next year’s plans

Christmas morning - great anticipation!

The dust has almost settled and the Christmas festivities are over for another year. The house has not yet recovered and neither have the children (a big tidy-up and a few early nights are required!) but everyone is enjoying relaxing and exploring their new gifts.

As we sit back and think through how Christmas went this year, I encourage you all to make yourself a few notes for next year. A bit of a Christmas debrief if you like. Perhaps keep them with the decorations or somewhere you know you will remember to check them. As the Christmas decorations first hit the department stores ridiculously early, use this as your reminder to get out that list and plan ahead for all the things that you want to do with your family and won’t get to without some up-front preparation.

Pick any headings that are helpful to you, but some of the things we will be thinking through are:

  • Our traditions (What we love and want to keep doing, new traditions to add to our celebrations next year, traditions we like the idea of but haven’t managed to make happen yet!)

"I know I'm not supposed to touch but...."

  • Gift buying (Planning to buy at Christmas sales for next year, purchasing throughout the year to spread out the cost, starting early and making gifts, planning for on-line purchases in Sept/Oct, buying wrapping paper, gift tags and cards on sale)
  • Christmas cards (Actually getting around to sending some next year!)

Our finished Jesse tree

  • Advent planning and preparations for next December (Making a whole new set of Jesse tree symbols and scrolls in November.)
  • Specific ways you will help your family to put God first throughout this season and focus on the birth of Jesus rather than getting caught up in the commercialism of it all. (Advent readings, Jesse trees, nativity scenes, community service, blessing the neighbours, reading the Christmas story on Christmas morning, singing Happy Birthday to Jesus etc.)
  • Special Christmas books (Each year we add to our Christmas book collection by purchasing online or at sales after Christmas for up to 90% off the original price. We then have beautiful Christmas stories, advent books, Christmas devotionals and picture books to read throughout December for a fraction of the regular retail price. We also purchase some for Christmas gifts the following year.)

  • Food (How did the planning, preparation, serving on the day and any other food related matters go? Great new recipes to collect from friends or family members we have tasted during the festivities.)

  • Travel arrangements (How did the Christmas period run and would we do it the same next year? This year we had two family celebrations as we always do, but they were spread out – one on Christmas day, one on boxing day, plus a smaller breakfast on Christmas morning and church. We felt much more relaxed than in the past when we have had church plus a lunch at one side of the family and then a dinner for the other side.
  • Any other ideas or notes that will help you to be more organised and stress-free next year. Christmas need not be a hurried and harried season, it really can be relaxing, joy filled and focussed on the birth of Jesus.

  • Even “the bump” received gifts. Wow! Presents in the womb!

titus2.com: Food for thought

Products

I came across the titus2.com website a few years ago after friends recommended several of the books available from the Maxwells who are the authors of the site. I have since read and then purchased almost all of their books and have found them to be Godly, inspiring and practical resources.

Teri and Steve Maxwell’s Mum’s and Dad’s corners are a regular email that comes out about once a month on a variety of parenting, family and faith based topics. I enjoy reading them and find them food for thought. Often my initial reaction is something along the lines of “too extreme,” however I have found that when I have had time to think the topics through from a biblical perspective, I agree with them and realise that they are not “extreme” at all, just biblically based. The sad reality is that often our lives (even as Christians) have become so worldly and our attitudes so affected by our culture that a biblical way of life seems extreme rather than the other way around.

The latest Mum’s and Dad’s Corner has some great ideas about Christmas traditions and celebrating Christmas as a Christian family. Check it out here.

Christmas traditions: Jesse tree symbols


As we continue to get organised for the advent season, I have put together a list of the items I want to collect for our Jesse tree this year. There are many different versions of the traditional readings (bible verses) for each day of December and the key characters to be included on the Jesse tree. The list below contains the ones we are focussing on this year and next year we will add completely different symbols, representing over time as many different parts of the bible as possible. I may end up swapping out a couple of these bible characters for others if I have trouble finding a suitable symbol.

Down the left are the “characters” and in brackets to the right are possible symbols for each. Readings can be found on so many different websites, I haven’t listed them here but I did include some links on my last Jesse tree post.

  • God (sun, Earth)
  • Adam & Eve (apple)
  • Noah (ark, dove, rainbow)
  • Abraham (tent, stars, camel)
  • Isaac (stick bundle, ram)
  • Jacob (ladder)
  • Joseph (coat, sack of grain)
  • Moses (burning bush, baby in basket, reeds)
  • Israelites (lamb)
  • God (10 commandments stone tablets)
  • Joshua (ram horn)
  • Gideon (clay pitcher, sword)
  • Samuel (crown, lamp)
  • David (shepherd’s crook, harp, 6 pointed star of David, sling shot)
  • Elijah (alter, raven)
  • Hezekiah (tent)
  • Isaiah (tongs, hot coal, scroll)
  • Jeremiah (tears, hand)
  • Habakkuk (watch tower)
  • Nehemiah (city wall, trowel)
  • John the Baptist (shell, fish)
  • Mary (white lily, letter M)
  • Elizabeth (Mother & child, letter E)
  • Zechariah (stylus & tablet)
  • Joseph (hammer, saw)
  • Magi (star, 3 gifts, 3 crowns)
  • Jesus (manger, star)
  • Christ (chi-rho symbol)

Christian families and Father Christmas

The children love to play with this nativity scene. In case you are wondering, baby Jesus is up in the hay loft.

I must admit, I hesitate to write this post knowing that many readers will disagree and perhaps even be offended. I apologise in advance to anyone who is offended but think that the topic is important enough to broach. I hope you will approach what I have to say with an open mind and make your own judgements based on biblical understanding and after prayerful consideration.

With Christmas decorations hitting the shops, I have turned my thoughts towards this year’s Christmas celebrations and plans. Is it possible to celebrate Christmas with Father Christmas or Santa Clause and still be honouring to God? Can we participate in all the pretend and story telling that goes along with it without lying to our children? How can it be ok to deliberately lead our children to believe that something is true when it clearly is not? The bible tells us that God is truth and Satan is the Father of lies. (John 8:44) Is it all just harmless pretend and imagination, or has it gone one step further than that?

We teach our children that being truthful and honest at all times is right and pleases God and tell them that pretending is fine as long as others know you are pretending. If our children report an event or happening to us that is not true, without making it clear that they are “telling us a story” or “pretending,” we treat this as lying and give appropriate consequences. I can’t reconcile that standard with telling them the traditional Santa tales, knowing that they fully believe every word of it to be true.

Why do many of us celebrate Christmas with the Father Christmas myths as a central part? For most of us, we grew up with it and loved every minute and our families (parents and extended family) may be upset if we decided to make a change. Many also seem to think that their children will miss out on the “magic” of Christmas. Some say they grew up with Santa and are still Christians so therefore there is no harm at all in doing it with their own children.

We are living in a time when reportedly up to 80% of those making decisions for Jesus walk away from the church or “backslide” as we often term it. Why take the chance with anything at all that could potentially harm our children’s faith?

We all know there will come a time when children will work out for themselves that Father Christmas isn’t real, but after years of hearing from trusted parents that he is real (and often that the Easter bunny and tooth fairy are also real), is the next step to question whether Jesus is real or just another pretend that Mum and Dad have told over the years?

At this time of year it’s hard to steer clear of the commercialism of Christmas and keep the focus on celebrating Jesus’ birth where it should be, without adding reindeer stories and Father Christmas into the mix.

We feel that we can still make Christmas a wonder-filled time of joy and fun without involving Father Christmas at all. We do give gifts, but the focus is on celebrating Jesus’ birthday and the tradition of gift giving started by the wise men at Christ’s birth. We have a tree, but it is a Jesse tree with the symbols on it related to bible stories. We spend time together making decorations and dressing the tree, eating special Christmas treats and listening to joyful Christian Christmas music. We have an advent wreath with candles to light as we read Christmas devotions and other special Christmas stories set aside for just this time of year. We cook together, hold family get-togethers, feasts and invite special visitors and are endeavouring to build many other Christmas traditions to knit us together as a family.

Our children love Christmas and look forward to it with as much joy, anticipation and excitement as I think I ever did and we can have the peace of mind and clear conscience of knowing that we are striving to teach them to love God with all of their mind, soul and strength and endeavouring not to steer their hearts and affections away from God in any way. Just because something is traditional, cultural, I personally grew up with it and society promotes it doesn’t mean it is right.

We do teach our children the legend of Saint Nicholas and some of the possible origins of the Father Christmas tales. We also teach them that children from other families believe Father Christmas is true and it is not for them to tell them otherwise.

I encourage you to think the issue through, talk it over with your spouse, pray about it, read your bible and come to a decision for your family that is Godly and right.

Christmas traditions: Our Jesse tree



(Updated to add: See photos of the finished ornaments here,  a list of stories and symbol for each day here, advent and Christmas tradition ideas here or for a different take on Jesse trees, see our names of Jesus Jesse tree symbols.) 

I know it’s only November, but Christmas is fast approaching. Every year I have grand plans for advent style activities, but before we know it, December has started and I’ve missed the beginning again. Not this year!

In the after Christmas sales last year I ordered a bunch of books and several of them are meant to be read on a daily basis leading up to Christmas. These will be out and plans for our Jesse tree are underway (in my head anyway!)

We have two Christmas trees already – a small one and a much larger tree. I have always loved decorating a beautiful tree and making it “just so” and didn’t want to add the children’s handmade decorations to “my” tree. Thus the little tree was theirs and the other was Mummy’s! As of last year however, I finally let go of my idea of a perfect tree and handed it over to the children. I arrived at this decision after allowing them to help me decorate my tree (after much begging and pleading) and finding the whole episode frustrating and annoying.

Later I sat down and reflected on the whole event. I want to create loving and memorable family traditions that the children will remember fondly throughout their lives and perhaps even carry on with their own family. Traditions are one of the ways we can create family togetherness – they knit us together. Decorating the tree should be a wonderful time of family togetherness and fun; not a time of grumping and correcting about how it was done. Sooo… my tree has gone and the large tree is now the family tree with everything on it (yes, I mean everything, sigh) and the smaller tree will act as our Jesse tree until the number of symbols builds up to the point we need to move to the bigger tree.

What is  a Jesse tree?

The Jesse tree is a representation of Jesus’ family tree. Jesse was the Father of David and God promised David that his kingdom would last forever. It was through David’s  line that Jesus comes and the symbols used on it traditionally represent those in Jesus’ family tree.

It is called the Jesse tree because of this verse in Isaiah 11:1-4:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. (Isaiah 11:1-4)

Rather than sticking to the traditional Jesse tree symbols, we plan to keep adding more and more symbols from as many bible stories as we can each year. I plan to collect objects from around the house, decorations we already have that match a symbol (eg, an angel) and buy a couple more every year to expand the collection. The children will make some cardboard creations, however I also want to collect a bunch of pre-made symbols that can be hung daily without us having to make something. Last year we started with the idea of making a symbol every day but it was just too hard to keep up. This year we will make a few and add a few.

Here are some useful links. Keep in mind that most of them are Catholic websites so use them as a guide and modify the readings and symbols chosen if desired.

http://www.cresourcei.org/jesse.html Lots of information about Jesse trees, including a very useful table of themes, scripture readings and symbols

http://www.domestic-church.com/CONTENT.DCC/19971201/FRIDGE/FRIDGE1.HTM Symbols with readings that can be copied, coloured and cut out to make your own homemade Jesse tree. Click on the symbol downloads to see the scripture references.

http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=545&repos=3&subrepos=1&searchid=801729 Scriptures and ideas for objects that may represent them – some alternative ideas here.

http://www.shalfleet.net/advent/makeajessetree.htm Scroll down this page for more scripture readings and several alternative symbol ideas.