Advent is fast approaching, preceded by Thanksgiving of course, and (around here anyway) a new baby. Last week, I shared how Advent traditions have changed in our family. We really try to focus on Advent as a time of waiting and preparation. So, rather than watching all the (awesome) Christmas stuff on TV, we save shows and movies for our own Twelve Days of Christmas (beginning on Christmas Day) and instead read books aloud as a family during Advent.

In case you’re looking to start some Advent traditions of your own this year, I wanted to share some of our favorites with you. These are all short chapter books, appropriate for the whole family. You could probably even get through all of them during Advent.

All links go to Amazon, where, if you make a purchase, I will get literally dozens of cents. Christmas, here we come!

1. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

A funny and heartwarming story of a family of bullies who decide to take part in the church Christmas pageant. My kids love getting to see the Christmas story through the eyes of kids who have never heard it before (and who think Herod could use a good beating — huzzah!).

This is the story of a seven year old girl and her family, awaiting Christmas AND a new baby. It’s got more Christmas pageant angst, and plenty of charming Advent traditions. It’s classic, sweet, and old-fashioned.

3. The Children of Noisy Village

By the author of the Pipi Longstocking books, this story chronicles a year with the children who live in a tiny rural Swedish village, including their Christmas. There’s actually a picture book (Christmas in Noisy Village) of just the Christmas part of the story, but for the same price you can get the whole year. So really, why not just read the whole thing? As in The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas, you get a beautiful glimpse into the families’ mindful preparation for Christmas, focused on charming old-fashionedy tidying and baking and bringing tree branches inside for decorations.

4. A Day on Skates: The Story of a Dutch Picnic

Not a Christmas book, but great for a chilly winter day. Or, for us, great for pretending it’s a chilly winter day. It’s got action and adventure and lots of ice skating!

5. A Christmas Carol

Despite being quite familiar with the story of A Christmas Carol, (the cartoon Mickey Mouse version
is a big favorite around here) so far we haven’t read the original aloud. But with all the success we had last month listening to some spooky classics, I think we’re ready for the real thing. There are plenty of versions to choose from, but I like this one because it’s illustrated (which helps with comprehension and attention span in preschoolers) but unabridged. The language is complex, but not so much that even little kids can’t keep track of what’s going on, especially if they already know how it all goes down with Scrooge McDuck.

(We also have favorite seasonal picture books, I’ll post on those in a couple of weeks.)


And now for the giveaway! . . . (The giveaway is over, thanks to everyone who entered!)

Years ago, I made a set of Jesse Tree ornaments, along with a book that contains all the readings AND a handy, dandy carrying case. But we really love our Christmas Novena and it’s just too much to do both, so we’ve never used them. I’d like to give them away to a family who can get some use out of them!

If you’d like to win it, just say so in the comments of this post. Next Thursday November 14 at 9pm Pacific time, I will randomly select the winning commenter. And we’ll ship it off to you, anywhere in the world. Good luck and have a blessed Advent!

Note: Your comment profile must be linked to an email address for you to win, so I can contact you to get your mailing address.


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If you are so inclined you can click on the links to vote once per day, per device for Catholic All Year as the Best NEW Homeschool Blog 2013, and/or the Best Current Events, Opinion, and/or Politics Blog 2013.Thanks so much to all of you who have voted already.


  1. Kristen

    What a beautiful Jesse Tree set and such a generous giveway! Thank you!

  2. Haley @ Carrots for Michaelmas

    Oooo! I want the Jesse Tree set. We tried to paint some ornaments a couple of years ago and only got through Day 5 and then gave up. We need help 🙂

  3. Rosie

    Ooh! I want to win! And I'm excited for my kids to be old enough to sit through *real* books – we're gradually trying to add longer read-aloud books but it's tough sometimes!

  4. Laurie

    I am just finding your blog, and I love the ideas for celebrating the church year! We would love to start a tradition with your Jesse tree advent set.

  5. Valerie

    We would love to win your beautiful Jesse Tree set. Thank you for the giveaway opportunity! vdesomber(at)yahoo(dot)com

  6. Monica McConkey

    Wow, Kendra…these Jesse Tree ornaments are beautiful and so is the book!I've got my own Jesse Tree covered (don't enter me in the draw! =), but I just think you are so awesome and generous for giving this beautiful set away. I think I get a little too attached to the things I make. Wow, you impress me. =)

  7. Mandi

    I've really been wanting to start a Jesse tree tradition but I am practical and know I can neither make my own set nor afford a decent one. The set you made is so beautiful, Kendra. I would cherish it forever! I so hope I win!

  8. Stacy

    I'd love these! We're having our first baby in March and want to start the Jesse tree tradition in our family.

  9. Madeline

    Those are beautiful ornaments and I love that it's a set, with the readings and a box. That's an amazingly thoughtful giveaway I would love to win. I have always loved The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. (It's a hoot of a play too!)

  10. Elfie Puddle

    Thank you for the chance and for your generous offer!
    I would love a beautiful set like this for my family!

  11. JenZ

    What a beautiful set! And I love the book recommendations!

  12. jevatt

    They are so beautiful. I want them for my grandchildren.

  13. momx2

    Your Jesse Tree ornaments are beautiful. I am inspired by your generosity but more impressed that when you recognize the Christmas Novena is your family's devotion, you let go rather than hold on to the Jesse Tree ornaments. There will be a family blessed by your art!

  14. Caitlin

    You are seriously crafty! Our family would love them.

  15. Julie@teachinggoodeaters

    I get my kids a new Christmas book each year so I really appreciate the suggestions. The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever is my favorite of all time! The 24 Days Before Christmas sounds like the perfect book for my daughter this year!

  16. Affordable Dolls

    I have always wanted a Jesse Tree set! I have been wanting one for years! Our big family tradition is the Nativity set. I have the one my mother made in ceramics class before I was born and Luke has a Fontanini nativity set that we add a piece to every year. He will hopefully pass it down to his children!

  17. Kandle Y. (

    SO beautiful! Thank you for the chance!

  18. Emily B

    We would love the Jesse Tree set! It's so very beautiful!

  19. Anonymous

    oh i'd love to win!

  20. Lisa

    Would love to win this Advent Jesse tree set. We need another Advent tradition. Thanks for the giveaway!

  21. Lisa

    Would love to win this Advent Jesse tree set. We need another Advent tradition. Thanks for the giveaway!

  22. Jill L

    These are so beautiful!!! I would love to share these with my family. We have been wanting to make it part of our Advent tradition.


  23. Julia Romeiser

    Wow, yes we would love and use this! I was just contemplating how I would ever find the time to make one of my own with three peanuts under foot.

  24. Elizabeth

    We would love the Jesse Tree set! I have been trying to get a "real" set for years, but keep holding off with husband in school. I will definitely check out some of these books. Your Halloween posts inspired me to find some great books for the family, and we really enjoyed those. Oh, and if you haven't read this Johnny Appleseed book during the fall, I highly recommend it. It never gets old for me or the kids.

  25. Isabelle Tabary

    This may be more than a little selfish, because I live in England, but these Jesse tree ornaments are so lovely, I can't resist trying for the giveaway!
    We are expexting our first baby this year, so I am really excited about starting some new Christmas and advent traditions!

  26. Rachel

    Oh! Pick me! We're looking for new traditions to start and I would love a Jesse Tree to be one of them 🙂 Thanks for the giveaway and the suggestions!

  27. Emily O'Rourke

    I would love to have such a beautiful set. Our first baby is due next week so it is a perfect time for us to begin with some family traditions!

    I discovered your blog only a month or so ago when I started maternity leave and I have been enjoying your posts so much- thank youu!

  28. Karen

    Those ornaments are beautiful! I'd love to win them.

  29. Melissa Pelletier Berube

    This is a beautiful set, thank you for the chance to win something so precious. We would love to start a new tradition with the Jesse and this set would be the perfect new tradition to start with, My e-mail is

  30. Lisa

    What an awesome giveaway! I'd love to win. 🙂

  31. Kristina

    What a sweet thought to share your Jesse Tree so it's used and loved

    • Molly

      p.s. We have a tradition in the making of trying to read A Christmas Carol out loud over Advent. You can break the books up in into four section (before the Spirits, Past, Present and Future + the End) and works out nicely over Advent.

  32. Shannon

    These would make a fantastic gift for one of my godchildren (we already have some I made).

  33. Brigitte Mehl

    What a beautiful set! My daughter had a major stroke in January, so the Advent and Christmas seasons have special meaning and importance to our family this year. The Jesse Tree ornaments would be a wonderful addition to enhancing our celebration.

  34. Heather

    Winning this would just make my day!! Or year, really. I have been wanting to do a Jesse tree with my kids, but it seemed to be such a daunting task to get everything set up. I would love the chance to use these beautiful ornaments with my kids. Thank you!

  35. Meg Anderson

    Would love the tree! We are just in the beginning stages of starting to celebrate the Liturgical year with our kids and are starting with Advent! This would be perfect!


    I would love to have that beautiful Jesse Tree! I have wanted to start doing the Jesse Tree with my girls but haven't had the time and resources to make one. This year I found a paper print out Jesse Tree that the girls can help me color. This Jesse tree would be perfect!

  37. Renee

    Your ornaments look so great! I would love to win them and start a Jesse Tree tradition in our family.

  38. Stuart Dunn

    Those are gorgeous. You are very talented. I would love to win and start the Jesse Tree tradition with my new son. 🙂

  39. Danielle

    What a wonderful giveaway!! We'd love them. 🙂 And if we don't win, maybe I'll need to try to make one!

  40. Kati

    I have been thinking of doing the Jesse tree (and then feeling guilty for not getting my act together) – this would be just the kick in the pants I need 🙂

  41. Anonymous

    I'd love to win the Jesse tree set. Thanks for the giveaway 🙂

  42. Jessica

    What a great giveaway! Such a beautiful set of Jesse Tree ornaments. This is one of my family's favorite advent traditions!

  43. Anonymous

    I would love to enter the giveaway! My children are excited to try a new tradition this year. We're putting up our Christmas tree at the beginning of Advent, and stringing it with lights, but no ornaments. We'll be using Jesse Tree ornaments to decorate it during Advent, and then for Christmas we'll put our Christmas ornaments on. But I need some Advent ornaments. The paper ones I have printed off the internet will do, but they're not very pretty. Yours are GORGEOUS!!! Thanks for the opportunity!

  44. Kate

    I would love to be entered in the giveaway. I like the copy you posted of "The Christmas Carol". If the illustrations are anything like the cover, they must be truly beautiful!

  45. Tacy

    So beautiful! I would love to know how you made them.

  46. Becky Hensler

    I came over from Jessica for your books, and can't believe I've found a Madeleine L'Engle that I didn't know about! I thought I had read everything she's ever written, but I just don't remember this one. Can't wait to check it out and thanks for the suggestion!

  47. RyAnne Carr

    We are just starting to make our family Advent/Christmas traditions and reading your blog has helped so much! I would love to be able to use this to help prepare for Christmas!!

  48. Mrs. Mike

    Ummm…yes yes YES please!!! Or if I don't win, can you take detailed pictures of them before you ship them off or show me how you made these, what symbols/prayers you use? Mine are just made of paper and are showing wear after only 3 years of use.

  49. Kris

    I'd love the Jesse Tree box! Years ago I bought a kit to make a set of my own. And finally sold it to someone after it sat in a cabinet for years and years. That kind of crafty stuff is just not my forte.

  50. Jocelyne

    Ha ha, nothing like a giveaway to bring the lurkers out! I love your blog so much and yes, I seriously covet that Jesse Tree. 🙂

  51. Anonymous

    I am hoping to start the Jesse tree tradition with my daughters this year. What a beautiful and exquisite set! We would love to win! Melissa

  52. Laura

    That looks fantastic- what a beautiful family tradition! Would love to win. spotofrain at gmail dot com.

  53. Irishmoss

    lovely Jesse tree ornaments! my sil gave me wooden ones once but I didn't know what to do with them and lost them. I really like the idea!

  54. Anonymous

    ooo, I love the Jesse tree ornaments! Thanks for the book suggestions – we do a lot of reading in this family!

  55. Stephanie Weinert

    Wow Kendra how generous of you! Would love to win the ornaments. God bless your final weeks/days of pregnancy!!

  56. Jane

    What a beautiful gift! Thank you for the chance to win!

  57. Laura D

    Awesome giveaway. We would be very grateful if we won these and would use them for years!

  58. Bonnie

    I don't want them because I already have a Jesse Tree kit BUT I want to comment that these are GORGEOUS! Congrats to whoever the lucky winner is!

  59. Cathy Hardekopf

    This would be awesome! We have been trying to incorporate a Jesse Tree in our family, but have not been successful! So beautiful!

  60. Melissa

    We have Jesse Tree Ornaments that I made a few years ago but this would make a fantastic gift! Would love to win! Thanks for the giveaway 🙂

  61. Erin

    These are so very lovely! What a beautiful tradition!

  62. Loren

    The ornaments are beautiful! I've been wanting to get a nice set like this for the past couple of years.

  63. Katherine

    "the Best Hristmas Pagent Ever" is the best book. Love it.

    …and yes please…make me a winner! 😉

    • Katherine

      And by H, I meant Christmas. I changed it, and it still came out just H. 😛

  64. LPatter

    I LOVE the Very Best Christmas Pageant Ever! My 2nd grade teacher read it aloud to us (yes, in 1987!) and I have NOT forgotten it since!

    I would also love, LOVE to win the ornament set for our young(ish) family – I am a DRE and have been for the last 3 1/2 years while my huband pursues his PharmD degree – so between parish life and mommy life with my 2 kiddos, my Advent traditions for the family have stunk – I mean, been overly simplified! This year the goal is to do Jesse Tree – so paper will suffice from the parish files – but a set like yours is the hope for us someday sooner than later! We promise to pray for your family with them if we win!

  65. Minny Mama

    I would really like to win the Jesse Tree! It looks super cute, and we're still trying to figure out our own traditions… plus my husband's name is Jesse 🙂

  66. Nicole

    This would be such a great gift! They are beautiful!

  67. Cathy

    How nice! We have always wanted to do a Jesse Tree but never knew how to start. This set would be a great start!

  68. Amy Salisbury

    I tried to comment from my phone but I dont think it worked… I would love to win these!!

  69. Sarah Rose

    They are beautiful! We just started doing a Jesse tree last year and I would love to win these!

  70. Holly

    These are lovely! Older Boy is just old enough to appreciate the Jesse Tree, but (as ever) I am currently completely unprepared. These would help!
    stambecchina (at) gmail (dot) com

  71. Joruns409

    Great giveaway. I am just starting the Jesse Tree this year and these wuold eb prefect. Thanks!

    joruns409 (at) yahoo (dot) com

  72. Sarah O

    So, so beautiful Kendra – I'd be honored to have these in our house!

  73. Anonymous

    I would love to win these! Love your blog!! I am an ENFP & need all the help I can get establishing order with my 5 boys!
    kmgillio at verizon dot net

  74. Jenna Wilber

    This is amazing! My husband and I are newly Catholic and I was planning on throwing together a low-budge Jesse Tree for my boys, but this would be so much more magical!

  75. Anonymous

    I would LOVE to have such a beautifully hand-made Jesse Tree!
    an.titus (at) yahoo (dot) com

  76. Megan

    Is there still time? Pick me! I was just talking about making one, but I fail at crafty.

  77. amys

    What a great tradition. Definitely something we'd like to start with our family – and what a beautiful ornament set.

  78. Anonymous

    Thank you for the chance to win this beautiful Jesse Tree set. I have been wanting to start this tradition in our home for the last few years…. Yet I have been overwhelmed and outnumbered with little ones (4 kiddos ages 5 and under- all a year or so apart). We would love and apreciate a new tradition as our family grows :-). BTW not much time of my own these days but I always find a few stolen minutes to read your blog, I just love it! My e-mail is Peace and blessings, Tara

  79. April

    Aw, you are very talented and kind. Thanks for sharing your gift with one of our familes. We would love the Jesse Tree set; it's our baby's first Christmas. CatholicMom2013(at)gmail(dot)com

  80. Ann-Marie Ulczynski

    Those are amazing! We've been doing the print it out and color it version for two years, but this looks lovely. Thanks for the instructions for in case we don't win.

  81. Kristin

    Since coming across your blog, I've been addicted to your writing and have been pouring through dozens of old posts. We're expecting our third in 2.5 years and would LOVE to have a Jesse Tree set to begin a new family tradition. Thank you for sharing your family and faith.

  82. biancefamily

    What a beautiful kit! Definitely going to attempt to make if I don't win!

  83. ~Maxine~

    I would love to win this. But not necessarily for myself as I have purchased a book/devotional to do with my own family. However, I have a friend I was trying to make one for so they could follow along. I would re-gift it to her.

  84. Housewifespice

    I'm totally copying your post for next week, because we have favorite Advent/Christmas books too that are all different from yours! I need to see this Astrid book now that you and Leila have recommended it. Of course, my post won't come with a gorgeous handmade Jesse tree giveaway. Unless I win yours!

  85. Julia

    We'd love to win this beautiful Jesse Tree set!

  86. Lindy

    Thanks for all of the book recs….putting them on hold at the library now. I'd love the Jesse tree set!

  87. Rhoda

    Yes, please! Those are the cutest Jesse Tree ornaments!

  88. jrc

    My girls loved our Jesse Tree devotions last year. It would be great to have such a beautiful set of ornaments!

  89. Christie

    Probably not going to make the Jesse tree set myself . . . I get these grand plans, but they always fall through. So when I caught myself looking at the tutorials you posted today, I thought, I better enter for the originals, just in case!

  90. Chrissy

    Oh my goodness! I love the Jesse Tree set, it is beautiful! I'm not terribly good with anything that involves even the most basic use of needle and thread, so here's hoping we win! I know we'd love that as a family! 🙂

  91. Chrissy

    I just realized that this is a year old … bummer … but still gorgeous, off to pin that tutorial in the hopes I can make it myself!

  92. Erin

    What a beautiful Jesse Tree set you made, Kendra! Please add me to the giveaway list. We have a 2.5 year old and a second baby due right around Christmas this year, so it would be a lovely time to start this tradition 🙂

  93. Kathryn Ward

    I have never done the Jesse tree. This set looks beautiful and would love to start this tradition with my family

  94. R Becca

    Oh gosh I would live that Jesse Tree set! I was going to buy one but with a very ill little baby this year we just can't afford it.

  95. turpinchrista

    Thank you for all the ways you make Liturgical Living accessible for other families. After my daughter was born, I really felt drawn to incorporating more sacred art and tangible, intentional practices our beautiful faith in our home throughout the year. Then, I stumbled upon your blog. What a blessing! Thank you again and we would love to be considered as a recipient for the Jesse tree.

Submit a Comment

Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

If you’d like to learn more about what Catholics believe and why, and to be inspired by saints from every era all over the world, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the prospect of how to teach your kids about the faith in a way that’s true, engaging, and lasts a lifetime, we can help!

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