SR. LOU ELLA HICKMAN, IWBS
Plan ahead to recycle your tree for use all year!
When you take down your Jesse tree after Christmas, have you ever wondered if you could get more use out of this wonderful tradition? Well, you can. Using some of the suggestions that follow, you can deck your tree throughout the year. Brainstorm with your students on how these activities can dovetail with the other lessons you are teaching.
Decide how you would like the symbols to be made: out of paper, wood (check hobby shops), or fabric (such a sewing simple cross stitch). Also, inexpensive “clay” can be made with white bread (no crusts) and white glue. Add coloring while the mixture is still soft. A small hole for hanging can be made at the top after the symbol is shaped in the dough.
Year-round tree ideas
Catholic Symbols Tree — Research the history of Catholic symbols and discuss what a symbol is and why it is used. Contrast the idea of symbol to that of a product logo. Examples of symbols include:
Ichthys / Chi Rho / Alpha Omega / Staurogram / IH, IX, HIS, ICXC monograms
Donation Tree — (Also called a “giving” tree.) Decorate the tree throughout the year with ornament-like tags with pictures of needed items. Or use pictures of Christ on one side and match them with ministry organizations or drop-off points where donations are most needed on the reverse side. Place the tree in the church lobby for parishioners to choose a tag and help with donations of items or money. This could be diapers for pregnancy care center, socks and gloves for the homeless, or food items for a local food pantry.
Trees for specific months or feasts
Respect Life Month: October
National Black Catholic Month: November
National American Indian Heritage Month: November
Vocations: November — celebrate Vocation Awareness Week and the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
National Sisters Week: March
All Saints Day: On November 1, use symbols or photos associated with saints and apostles.
Lent: Attach crosses with the “Prayer before a Crucifix” or “By your holy cross, you have redeemed the world” on the reverse. Another option: Write a prayer on the reverse for someone carrying a heavy cross. Examples: for those grieving, the homeless, the mentally ill, or orphaned children in need of adoption.
Holy Week: Find symbols of faith, hope, and love; on the reverse write the Act of Faith, Act of Hope, or Act of Love. Give the prayers to those who will be received into the Church at Easter. Option: Scallop shells are the symbol for Baptism — write the names of those who will be baptized on the shell and display them on the tree.
First Communion celebrations: Decorate the tree with symbols of the Eucharist.
May: Celebrate with symbols of Mary.
May 1: St. Joseph the Worker. Depict a carpenter’s tools.
Advent: This is traditionally when we see the Jesse Tree’s biblical history. Before hanging the ornaments, have one of the students proclaim the genealogy of Jesus (see Matthew 1:1-16).
Sr. Lou Ella Hickman, IWBS, MA, is a certified spiritual director, freelance writer, and poet. Her first book of poetry, She: Robed and Wordless, was published in 2015 by Press 53.
This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, November/December 2017.
Image credit: Veryulissa / Shutter stock 336374288