Croatian Traditions: Planting Christmas Wheat on Saint Lucy's Day

Croatian Traditions: Planting Christmas Wheat on Saint Lucy's Day
Ivica Galovic / PIXSELL

December 13, 2022 - Croatia is a largely Catholic country, and as such it has many traditions tied to saints, including various Christmas traditions. One of them is Saint Lucy's Day, which is today, on the 13th of December. The Croatian tradition for this day includes planting a little pot of Christmas wheat, which will serve as part of the decorations for the Christmas table.

As Večernji wrote, although pots of wheat can be bought for almost symbolic amounts at markets and in all retail chains, the process of planting wheat is part of a tradition that takes most Croatians back to their childhood, family gatherings and the immense joy of waiting for Christmas, which, unfortunately, seems to be slowly disappearing.

The planting of wheat in the Croatian Christmas tradition carries a deeper meaning: besides being a symbol of the birth of new life and well-being, it invokes and blesses the harvest. The belief is that the appearance of the wheat (colour, density, height) would predict what the crop in the following year would be like. In some regions, in addition to the Saint Lucy's Day, wheat is traditionally sown on Saint Barbara's Day, December 4, following a different process as well. The common goal, though, is for the Christmas wheat to grow tall and dense to be proudly presented on the Christmas table, and many people keep it until the New Year.

Although growing it should be a simple process, it seems that there are a few tricks to growing a fruitful, dense pot. That is one of the reasons why many Croatians decide to buy ready-made wheat a day or two before Christmas. Agronomist Sunčica Dombaj shared a few tips. She mentioned insufficient seed germination and growth in unfavorable conditions as the main cause for thin or low wheat. "It would be ideal to keep the wheat at a moderate temperature in the room by the window, that is, in a bright place, and not to overdo it with watering", she emphasized, adding that the wheat should be watered daily, but moderately, by spraying it with a sprayer or simply misting it with your hands soaked in water. Otherwise, the leaves will turn yellow and mold will catch on the wheat. It is important that the container in which you put the wheat is not too deep - some plant it on a plate.

How to plant your own Christmas wheat

Put a layer of garden soil in a shallow container and gently press the germinated wheat seeds in and spray daily. In addition to light, wheat also likes heat, but do not place it directly next to a heat source, radiator or stove. Wheat grows well on cotton wool - many people use this trick. Put a layer of cotton wool about one centimeter thick in a bowl, spray it with water and spread the grains of wheat over it. The method of care is the same as for wheat that is planted in soil. Planting wheat is a perfect activity to do with children, who will then eagerly monitor and follow the progress of the wheat throughout the 12 days before Christmas.

What should you pay particular attention to when planting wheat?

Wheat, regardless of whether it is planted on an earthen substrate or a cotton substrate, should not be sown too thickly, because then a lot of sprouts pop up and elongate in search of a place to grow.

After it germinates and starts to grow, how do you keep wheat green until the New Year?

Wheat's greatest ally in maintenance is moisture. Sunčica advises that instead of watering, wheat should be moistened by spraying and that the soil should not be allowed to dry out. Also, wheat should by no means be supplemented.

Did you know that you can eat the green part of wheat?

Many people grow wheat this way throughout the year. The reason for this is its health benefits in the daily diet. You can also use it in the preparation of your meals - simply cut the green part with scissors and put it in a salad or mix it in yogurt or some kind of drink.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Lifestyle section.