Written by contributor Lora Lynn Fanning of Vitafamiliae
One of the most important locations in our home at Christmastime is the dining room. This is where our real Christmas celebration occurs throughout the month. I make sure that even if I don’t hang an ornament in any other room, the dining room gets special treatment.
Back when my oldest children were babies, I read about a family who eats by candlelight every night in December. It made the whole month feel special, even if they were just scarfing down pizza. Candlelight makes everything more elegant, right?
We began that tradition in our own home with just big thick candles in the middle of the table. I’ve added a few candlesticks and hurricane lamps over the years. I’m always on the hunt for the “perfect” Christmas candelabras, although my crew is content with pillar candles and votives for now.
I’ve found that, in the hustle of the season, this was a great time to slow down, look our loved ones in the eye, and let them know we think they’re worthy of a candlelight supper. Turning off the lights also seemed to quiet the noise, allowing us to focus on the people in front of us, the magic of the moment.
This tradition, special enough in its own way, took on more meaning when we tied it into our Jesse Tree celebration. Jesse Tree is a sort of advent for Christmas, but it begins with the opening words of Genesis and describes through Old Testament stories why the world has needed Christ since the very beginning. There’s an ornament with an image depicting some part of the story for every day of the month.
Some years, we’ve let the kids color the picture ornaments while my husband read the story. They make for some very special keepsakes.
This year, I finally remembered to order a “real” Jesse Tree ornament set. Now we have sturdy wooden ornaments to hang up that will be a family heirloom. (Although my children have already pulled out their old colored masterpieces to giggle over.)
There are also plenty of instructions on the Internet about how to make your own ornaments, if you are of the crafty sort. Which I am NOT.
You can hang Jesse Tree ornaments on your own Christmas tree or on a designated smaller tree. I like to decorate with wood trees in my house, so this year, we hung a large branch up over the dining room table. I put a few shiny ornaments on it and some Christmas greenery, but other than that, it’s a naked branch. Each night, we add a new wooden ornament to it.
Because the Jesse Tree story begins in the Beginning, when the world was dark and void, we ate our first meal of December in darkness. As it turned out, we were eating spaghetti. Not my most brilliant combination, but it kept the kids infinitely aware of the darkness. When we finished most of the slurping, my husband read our Jesse Tree devotion and we lit one single candle.
The next night, over a meal of tacos, we lit a second candle.
Twenty-five candles sit on my table in December, waiting to be lit. By Christmas morning, when we read our last devotion over a big breakfast, our table will look like a bonfire all lit up. I’ll put the baby Jesus in the manger and we will see and know that Hope has come.
It’s never too late to start your own traditions. You could easily do a condensed version of Jesse Tree and throw some candles on your tabletop with what’s left of December. Jump right in and get started!
Resources for your own Jesse Tree:
Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree Devotion (free, and what our family uses)
What are the traditions that your family insists on every year? Are there any you would like to add?