Friday, November 08, 2013

Tevye And Scrooge Learned The Hard Way. Don't Make The Same Mistake

Pressure Busting Tip #8
When my father's parents came to the United States, my grandmother was anxious to leave the Old World behind and become completely American.  She happily adopted an Americanized version of her last name, the fashions of the day, and even went so far as to insist upon only English, not Croatian, being spoken in the house.  As a result very few customs and traditions of our family's Christmas hearkened back to my father's European family's roots.  One did, however, and that was growing wheat at Christmas.  My dad would go to Broadway Feed Store downtown and get a small bag of wheat seeds which my mom would start at Thanksgiving, shallowly planted in a decorative container of potting soil and placed in a sunny kitchen window.  After it grew in nice and thick and green, she'd keep it trimmed neatly at a height of about five or six inches.  On Christmas Eve she'd put a red or white taper in the middle of it and tie a red ribbon around the blades of wheat.  Lighted, it was placed in the middle of the kitchen table amid the huge platters and bowls of food.  Aunt Martha, Aunt June, Uncle Paul, Aunt Rose--all the Croatians or Croatians by marriage--always nodded approvingly.  "Ah, Pat!  The wheat!  You remembered!"

About thirty-five years ago, Broadway Feed stopped carrying wheat.  Everyone did.  My dad had to read labels and see which animal feed or birdseed contained whole, not cracked, wheat.  He brought home several pounds, and we kids sat at the kitchen table and picked out enough wheat to plant for Christmas.  It was fun--sitting there, laughing, making fun of what we were doing, having contests, and goofing around.  Then we all grew up, moved away, and my mother had to do it by herself.  The big wheat plant became little individual plants for each household, carried lovingly by my mother to each of us.  We lit the candles and put them on our tables. We trimmed the lengths and remembered, especially after my dad passed away more than ten years ago.

Now, my mom has arthritis, and nerve damage has left her fingers numb.  It is a Herculean struggle for her to pick up a nickel, let alone a grain of wheat.  This tradition may have ended.  One of us may pick it back up.  I don't know.  But the tradition of the wheat makes me think of a piece of advice to pass on to you.

Pressure Busting Tip #8:  Don't invest too much meaning and importance in traditions.  Of course the tradition of the wheat is very sentimental and important to me and my family; moreso since the death of my father.  And as I become closer and closer to my mother, I know that her inability to sort seeds and glean the wheat represents her aging and progressive frailty.  So sometimes, traditions need to be put to rest.  Maybe they simply represent sadness now; maybe they are too time-consuming; maybe they're just pointless and don't make sense to your celebration.  Feel free to put them to rest, for whatever reason, and make new ones.

wheatgrass image
wheat image


  1. I like that tradition, and I hope you can find some online purveyor of wheat to keep it going. But you're right, sometimes things get to be just too much, and it's good to let them go. Before doing so, though, it might not be a bad idea to take pictures and write down the history, for future generations.

  2. Fascinating tradition. I bet it was beautiful and heartwarming to see the greenery with the white taper and red ribbon. I love simple designs like that. How wonderful that your father did not let the tradition stop when it got a bit harder to find whole wheat--and that you all supported him with your efforts. But, yes, it's okay to let things go for sure. In some cases, continuing to do them just seems wrong. I'm not saying that is the case here at all, but hubby's dad used to always place this bird ornament (which he'd personally carved) on the tree as the first ornament. After he died, MIL would hang it first. She's gone now and that's a tradition that would not feel right to be continued and doesn't have to be. We have one of my FIL's handmade bird ornaments and if we put up a tree, it will most likely get hung but hubby doesn't have to put it up first.


  3. Shirley--Christmas can be so difficult in that way because it's fraught with tradition(s) that are connected with family members who are gone, either passed away or not there for one reason or another. In our family--the boys and us--we've had some very difficult Christmases due to extended family matters. The holiday has always been a minefield for Rick. Once all that was straightened out and put away, we have gotten past those and have been able to forge ahead with lovely Christmas times. My family has always been a great source of love and joy for Christmas, and for that I am always grateful.

    J@jj--What a wonderful idea. There are so many sources online for making your own book. That might be a lovely thing to do. You're the best.

  4. My mother used to host her family (brothers & their kids - & whoever else could come) on Christmas Eve. No one was allowed to miss. I missed once in about 35 years & that was because I was in Zambia - I was excused that year.

    After she died in March 2005 I decided to host the Christmas Eve gathering in her memory just one more time. But it was a maudlin affair & you could tell that no one wanted to be there without my mother. It was too painful. (Not to mention my father was already dating again & Mom's brothers were not too happy about that!)

    Traditions are for grounding AND joy - without the joy they're just burdens. So it's time for a new tradition. Maybe St. Patsy would like a chia pet?

  5. Bug--At least you tried. But you found out what I was trying to get across in my post. And you said it so perfectly and so succinctly.
    "Traditions ground us and bring us joy. Without the joy they're just burdens." Thank you.


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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