Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Shelterbelt Christmas Eve

Excerpt from Shelterbelt, by Mary Ann Seitz   

 "Christmas Eve was very special.  People worked in the morning, but the late afternoon became a holy time, so the boys did the chores early.  Mum helped Francie and the little ones clean the wheat for supper.  All the wheat was poured on the big table and divided into small areas with their fingers.  Then the grasshopper heads and chaff were removed.  The wheat was very important.  It was the Life, and it wold be the first thing they ate that night.
     In the Christmas Eve twilight a knock sounded on the door.
     "Come in," Mum called in a soft, respectful voice.  Harry, the oldest son, carried in an oat sheaf and spoke for it.
     "Dobra vachi," he said to them all.
     "Die Boza zdrowla," their mother replied.
     "Dobra vachi," the sheaf repeated.
     "Die Boza zdrowla."
     After the sheaf had spoken for the third time and received the proper greeting, Harry carried him to the corner of the kitchen and set him on a chair.  No one could move him until New Year's Day when he would be carried to the barn and spread for the cows to eat, the old year no longer of any use.
     "Go feed the old jeedo," their mother directed.  They hid apples and nuts and candies in the sheaf's beard.  The old year had to have his supper first.  Old people always ate first.
     Then Joe came in with the hay.  With the proper words he greeted his mother, and she replied again.  She took the hay from him and lifted the tattered oilcloth off the table.  Over the scarred wood she spread the scented grass in thin wisps, then replaced the cover.  Jesus had been born in a barn with hay all around Him.  Could little babies smell?  Francie thought that she would have liked to be born in a barn too, where the hay smelled so fresh and clean."