the Jesse Tree

The Jesse Tree is a tradition that introduces Jesus’ ancestors. The Jesse Tree is named for Jesse, the father of King David.  Stories from the Old Testament are told, and participants create symbols to hang on Jesus’ ‘family tree.’

One large tree can be created and brought into the church as part of the Advent decorations, or individual families can make a tree to take home.

You will need:

  • A Bible written for very young children (such as the Eager Reader Bible Story Book, Catholic Edition). Find adults willing to read stories from this Bible during the session. Suggested stories are Creation, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, Samuel, David, Elijah, Daniel, Jonah, Elizabeth and Zechariah, Joseph, and Mary.
  • Materials for creating the symbols: colored felt, tissue paper, craft sticks, pipe cleaners, self-hardening clay, colored tag board, glitter, paper punch, glue, markers, scissors, paper to protect work surfaces, ample table space, etc.
  • Tree or trees: these can be branches off a deciduous tree, a small, artificial Christmas tree, an evergreen wreath, or an outline of a pine tree painted onto sturdy cardboard (symbols must be pinned on).

Begin with a short explanation of the Jesse Tree

"Making a Jesse Tree helps us understand that many people lived before Jesus was born. They waited for him, just as we wait for his birthday now. These people were good, holy people and have interesting stories! We will read a story and think of a symbol to make, something that will remind of the person. Then we will hang that symbol on the tree, and read another story."

Jesse Tree coloring pages

Free download of the Jesse Tree symbols coloring pages

Other Jesse Tree symbol ideas

The symbols depict the ancestors of Jesus or Old Testament events leading to Christ. Explain each and read related Scripture. The symbols can be drawn, made of clay or play dough, cut from cardboard, etc., then hung on the tree each day. Here's a table of Scripture Readings for the symbols.

  • Adam and Eve: apple with two bites gone
  • Abraham and Isaac: a ram
  • Solomon: a temple
  • Moses: two tables of law
  • David: a star
  • Isaiah: a hand, or burning coal
  • Rebecca: silver pitcher
  • Ruth: wheat
  • John the Baptist: shells
  • Jacob: ladder
  • Creation: sun or moon
  • Noah: ark
  • Joseph: coat with many colors
  • Samuel: scrolls
  • Jesse: flowering rod
  • Samuel: scrolls
  • Joseph: carpenter's tools
  • Zachary and Elizabeth: a slate board
  • Christ: chi-rho, rose
  • Mary: lily, crown of twelve stars
  • Nativity: donkey, star, angel
  • Anne and Joachim: golden gates of Jerusalem,doves