Preparing for Nativity: Practical Ideas for a Jesse Tree

The Nativity Fast will be coming sooner than we think — it begins on November 15 on the new calendar, and November 28 on the old calendar. We’ll be taking 40 days to prepare ourselves and our families for the coming of Christ on Nativity.

We’ll fast, we’ll pray and we’ll give alms — and most families will try to work in something special for the children, so that they’ll take in the true meaning of Christmas. (No, television specials, the true meaning of Christmas is not ‘family’ or ‘generosity’ — it’s actually the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, thank you very much!)  How do we ‘keep Christ in Christmas’ as they say?

I’m excited about my book and ornament set, Welcoming the Christ Child, from Sebastian Press. The book offers 40 readings with discussion questions for the 40 days of our Nativity Lent, so that families can enjoy a story a day, moving from creation through Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, Moses and Joshua, Daniel and David and Tobit and Ruth — tracing names that the children will hear in Christ’s genealogy before Christmas. In the final days, we read of Joachim and Anna, of Zacharias and Elizabeth, and of course, of the Holy Theotokos, Mary.  There’s a set of ornaments that matches the book’s illustrations, so that you can mark each day as you count down to Christmas and move closer to Christ’s Nativity.

So the question looms:  what do we do with the ornaments?  Do we set up a Christmas tree in November, and then add an ornament every day?  You could, if you like. Or you could set up a small tree in addition to your usual tree — one little Jesse tree, and one large Christmas tree, if you like!

In our house, the Jesse tree ornaments hang on a simple (but meaty) ribbon, which is simply strung along the wall. We may have to try one of these craftier ideas this year… maybe.  Or maybe I’ll just hang ribbon across the wall (tacking it up every few feet with pushpins) and tie the ornaments onto it in order, right across the dining room windows.

Here are some ideas for the crafty among you.  I found them on Pinterest — click on the photo to see the page someone conveniently pinned for us!

For more ideas, check pinterest, or just search ‘alternative Christmas trees’ on google. There are a lot of options out there… and of course, you could invent your own!


HGTV offers this option, where you could hang ornaments on the strings.


A Christmas tree made from a tomato cage, some fake garland, and ribbon.


A tree fashioned out of a tomato cage and embroidery loops (might be nice with ribbons?)
A stick tree! This comes from an article on alternative trees (more ideas there!) but without instructions.
A small tree built out of sticks
A wooden tree from Jenny at the Gingerbread House.


Wooden tree with clothespins to hold ornaments.

About Elissa Bjeletich Davis

Elissa Bjeletich is the mother of five daughters, and serves as the Sunday school director at Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church in Austin, Texas. Find more information on her website:

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