The Tradition of the Jesse Tree

Jesse Trees are a very old Christmas Tradition and first started in medieval times. They are used to help tell the story of the Bible from creation to the Christmas Story.

The name comes from Jesse who was the Father of the great Jewish King David. One prophecy in the bible, in the book of Isaiah, says:

1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 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--
3 and he will delight in 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;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
Isaiah 11:1-4 (NIV)

A branch is a sign of new life and new beginnings. Jesus was a decedent of King David and Christians believe that Jesus is this new branch.

Photo of a Jesse Tree by Robert Terrel: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ratterrell/76115168/

The first Jesse trees were large carvings, tapestries or even stained glass windows put in Churches that helped illiterate people (people who can't read or write) to learn about the bible from creation to the Christmas Story. But now Jesse Trees are used as a kind of Advent Calendar. You can use a normal Christmas tree or a banner in the shape of a tree. Each day through advent (or sometimes just on the four Sundays of advent) a special decoration or ornament (similar to a Chrismon), that tells a story from the Bible, is hung on the tree.

There are very many different stories and symbols you can use. I've listed 25 stories and symbols that I especially like!

 

Bible Story: Where it is in the Bible: Symbol:
Creation Genesis 1 The earth
Adam and Eve /
Garden of Eden
Genesis 2:4 - 3:24 A tree with fruit or an apple
Noah & the Flood Genesis 6:9 - 9:17 A rainbow
God's promise
to Abraham
Genesis 12:1-7 & 15:1-6 A tent
Isaac Genesis 22:1-18 A ram
Jacob's Ladder Genesis 28:10-19 A ladder
Joseph's Coat Genesis 37 & 50 A multicoloured coat or robe
Moses Exodus 2:1 - 4:20 A burning bush
Israelites and
the Passover
Exodus 12:1-42 A lamb
The 10 Commandments Exodus 19:1 - 20:20 Two stone tablets
Joshua and the
fall of Jericho
Joshua 6:1-20 A ram's horn trumpet
Ruth Ruth (Whole Book) A sheaf of corn
King David 1 Samuel 16:1-3 A six pointed 'Star of David'
Solomon's Temple 1 Kings 6 The temple
Elijah and
Baal's Priests
1 Kings 18:16-39 A bonfire
Isaiah's 'Jesse'
Prophecy
Isaiah 11:1-11 A tree stump with a single branch
growing from it
Jonah and the Whale Jonah (Whole Book) A whale
John the Baptist Matthew 3:13-17 A scallop shell
Mary Luke 1:26-38 A white lily
Elizabeth Luke 1:39-56 A mother and child
Zechariah Luke 1:57-80 A pencil and tablet
Joseph Matthew 1:19-25 A carpenter's hammer
The Shepherds Luke 2:8-20 A fluffy sheep!
The Wisemen Matthew 2:1-12 A gold star or the
three gifts or three crowns
Jesus Luke 2:1-8 A baby in a manger

Christmas Traditions and Customs