Christmas or Yule wheat is an old Slavic and Croatian tradition. It has stayed alive through centuries and we still observe it today. It was used to divine how successful the next year will be. If your wheat was lush and green, your year will be successful. We use Christmas wheat as a decoration for the Xmas table, we don’t eat it.
What is Christmas wheat
Christmas wheat is young wheat plants. It is sown before Christmas and displayed on the Christmas table. It is used to divine the next year. If the wheat is lush and green, the next year will be successful. Now, this might seem like a lot of baloney, but if you think about it – if you were a farmer growing wheat. And you tested the wheat seeds in Christmas time and got beautiful looking Christmas wheat for your table décor – it would mean your seeds were viable. And next year, if the weather was good, your harvest should be plentiful – thus your year would be successful.
Before the Christmas wheat would be a handful of wheat from your previous harvest, that you would plant in time for Christmas. Now, in Croatia, it is sold in small packages. But if you are not living in Croatia and cannot find the Christmas wheat and you don’t grow wheat, you can use cat’s grass seeds. Just check the package of the seeds. The ones that have pure wheat as the ingredient are what you should use.
When to sow Christmas Wheat
Christmas wheat is sown in December. Usual dates for sowing the wheat are 4th December and 13th December. But it can be sown on any day between as well. If you sow it until 15th you should be all good. Presoaking it overnight helps as well and can speed up the germination. But don’t sow it before December, it will only go yellow, and you will have a sorry looking wheat on your table.
How to sow Christmas Wheat
There are different ways to sow your Xmas wheat. The most used one is to sow it on a layer of a cotton ball. Some even simply grow it in water. I grow mine on a layer of soil. But first, soak your seeds overnight in water.
The next day, add a layer of soil to the container of your choice. Water the soil before adding your wheat. Make sure you leave at least half an inch of space between the rim of the container and the top of the soil. If you want to put a candle in the middle and don’t have the Christmas wheat container, stick a bottle lid in the middle, or a stick that is the thickness of the candle you will use. Then add a thick and equal layer of presoaked wheat and spray it well with the spray bottle.
Put your Christmas wheat on the window sill and keep it warm and moist. Make sure it doesn’t dry out. Spray it every day, at least once. And come Christmas it should be lush and green.
This year I decided to do it a bit differently, and here is a video with instructions:
Decorating the wheat for the table
While Christmas Wheat is a table decoration itself, you can also decorate it. Traditionally we sow it in the low containers and then decorate it with a ribbon in the middle of its height, with a candle stuck in its center. The candle should be taller than the wheat itself for an inch or two. And you would light it up on Christmas.
Some people would even trim the wheat so that it’s perfectly level. With a straight top. In recent years I would only trim it lightly, just the ones that grew too tall and are looking awkward. I like a bit more natural look to it instead of the topiary look of the perfectly trimmed ones. In Croatia, you can buy special containers for Christmas wheat, that have a candle holder included in the container itself. The containers are low (1 – 2 inches in height) and plastic. But you could choose a color that will fit your theme. We would select the candle and ribbon to fit our theme as well, or you could use a traditional ribbon with Croatian flag colors and a white or red candle in the middle.
While I wrote this article from Croatian point of view, I am aware this is not just a Croatian tradition. I think it is also observed in Serbia and Bosna and Herzegovina. But I am not sure how many other European countries have Christmas wheat tradition. I would love to know, so if you have this tradition in your country, let me know. Also let me know what is a difference compared to the tradition in your country. Happy holidays!