I made this red and white ornament holder for our Jesse Tree this week. I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out! (Update: it didn't really work out in the long run...)
We participated in an ornament swap last year, but this year we thought we would do something different during the fast. A week in however, I was missing our Jesse Tree readings and the ornaments, so I pulled them out of the attic and this impromptu project began. We are short a few ornaments because our puppy ate a few last year. :( We'll try to make some new ones as we go.
As I was hanging it up, I realized how absurd it must look to anyone accustomed to western Advent: "52! They start counting down to Christmas on November 3?!" [If that's you, Orthodox Christians spend 40 days preparing for Christmas, and then celebrate for the 12 days of Christmas.]
Hmmm... maybe I should have used 1-12 after 40? That would have saved me from cutting out all those extra fours and fives!
Originally I meant to have an individual pocket for each number, but I realized they would be too skinny for most of our ornaments. So instead each of the 8 pocket holds 6 or 7 ornaments, and they kind of overlap a bit. Many of them are very small, so this works out quite well. That means there is also room to slip in a small paper icon of specials saints commemorated during the fast and a few treats for the 12 days.
I'm planning to paint or decorate a clothes pin somehow to move along and count the days for us. I'm thinking this will end up being very practical - organizer, decoration, and countdown calendar all in one! We're using a branch from outside as our tree this year, but its looking pretty skimpy. I think maybe a miniature tree from the store would be nicer?
The girls were excited to peek at some of the ornaments again, "Oh yeah! I remember this!" We quickly went through the first 7 days today so we could catch up, and I was really happy they remembered most of the stories.
Sometimes I worry about how my kids will learn Bible stories without a Sunday school program like I had when I was growing up. But I realized, we go through most of the Old Testament during the Nativity fast, and the New Testament throughout the year with all of the feasts, especially during Lent. That's a pretty good cycle to repeat and build on each year, eh? I'm again thankful for the wisdom of the Church.
Here's a list of readings, or you can print this pdf of all the readings for convenient use each year, and I love these supplemental readings for older kids or adults.
Wishing a good fast to all of you!