US Catholic Faith in Real Life

The other Christmas tree

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

The first religous celebration other than Christmas that I can remember looking foward to isn't Easter, believe it or not, but Advent. That's because from the time I was in first grade, my Catholic grammar school—St. Joseph in Knoxville, Tennessee—had a Jesse tree in our atrium. Every other morning at 7:50 (just before the first bell), students would gather to sing O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and hang a symbol from the Old Testament on the evergreen. ( has a list of symbols, but it's not set in stone.)

To this day I remember the excitement when I finally got to hang an ornament and read the meaning of the symbol. (Only the older kids got to do it, so I had to wait six years!)

What surprised me most, though, is that no one else I know had a Jesse tree. I can't think of a better way to celebrate Advent, especially with kids. To this day I can remember the excitement of our little Advent celebration.

Read more blogs about Advent and Christmas traditions at Submit a guest blog to We may put this together into a holiday theme Meditation Room for the magazine next year. Any reflections selected for publication will win $50!