by Father Mark Goldasich
“So, how is your psenica doing?”
In answer to Mom’s question, I said that it was doing great. And we all know what that means, right? That 2015 will be a prosperous year for me!
By now, if you’re not Croatian, you must be totally confused. What the heck is psenica (pronounced, “shen-it-zah”) anyway? Happily, it’s not some illness or injured body part. It’s actually wheat seed that’s used in a custom that I grew up with on Strawberry Hill in Kansas City, Kansas.
Apparently in olden days, farmers would plant some wheat before the winter solstice to see how good the seed was. If it grew well by the solstice and lasted into the new year, they knew it would be a good crop the next year. It also came to be regarded as a sign of prosperity for the family.
With the coming of Christianity, farmers used the sprouting new wheat as a symbol of the Christ Child coming into the world as our hope for redemption. Traditionally, the psenica is planted in a shallow dish or saucer on the feast of St. Lucy, Dec. 13, about a week before the winter solstice.
As kids, we’d eagerly watch to see what would happen. When my grandparents and parents planted the psenica, it grew well. I, however, was born with a “black thumb,” meaning that the psenica I planted each year as an adult either rotted from being overwatered or dried out and died from a lack of water.
I was not going to let that happen this year. I paid attention to the poor wheat seed in my house and it is growing like crazy! Now, I don’t think that this is some magic guarantee that my new year will be fantastic, but I do believe that it’s St. Lucy indicating God’s blessing on my resolutions to make it a great year.
With that in mind, here are some of my New Year’s resolutions. Usually, I’m all for simplicity, making just one or two resolutions. Since the psenica is thriving, however, I’ve decided this year to “go big or go home.”
• to stop rushing. I intend to arrive at least 10 minutes before I’m scheduled to be somewhere and use the “extra” time to catch my breath and get prepared for the appointment.
• to do a jigsaw puzzle each month. Puzzles are very relaxing for me and a chance to leave worries and cares behind. I’ve got plenty of puzzles on hand, too.
• to color. I always enjoyed coloring books as a kid — probably because I couldn’t draw anything freehand to save my soul. I already bought a coloring book for adults that features 30 mosaic designs, and my new crayons and colored pencils are rarin’ to get used.
• to listen more and not interrupt when people are speaking, especially God!
• to realize that sometimes good enough is good enough.
• to continue to simplify. This starts with weeding out and donating books, clothes and other assorted “stuff” that’s taking up room in my home and offices.
Whether you planted any psenica or not, I wish you a prosperous new year. Help it to be a wonderful time by making your own resolutions. If your finances are a mess, for example, take a look at pages 7-9 of this issue for some simple, practical advice on how to reduce stressors in that particular area. You’ll be glad — and richer — if you do.
Another resolution to try is a memory jar. This is a simple, fun and inexpensive idea that the whole family can do. I saw this suggestion from Jaden at her website, Steamy Kitchen. While she suggests using a Mason jar, I’d opt for something a lot larger, like a fish bowl. The idea is to write down — all through the year — the things that made you or your family laugh, smile or be grateful. Put a pen and a small colorful notepad by the bowl. As the year rolls along, that bowl should get fuller and fuller. Then, on New Year’s Eve next year, sit down as a family and read all of the fish bowl notes. You’ll probably remember the big events of the year, but it’s these little pleasant memories that often fall through the cracks. This activity will help end the year on a positive note and begin the new year with hope.
Oh, yeah, I did come up with one more resolution for my personal list. I resolve in 2015 to dust off the old bike, bike helmet and the treadmill. In 2016, I plan on actually using them!