Sunday, December 6, 2009

St. Nicholas Speculatius and Spiced Wine



by Helen McLoughlin

THE LITURGICAL PRESS St. John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota


St. Nicholas' feast day, December 6, is one of the highlights of
the Advent season. It is on this eve that our children hang their
stockings. From babyhood they learn to love the kind bishop with
his mitre, staff and bag of gifts--whose name has become parodied
as "Santa Claus" and whose memory is tarnished by commercialism.
In addition to the toys received on this feast, the Christ-Child
and His angels bring other gifts on Christmas Eve; and the Magi a
few more on Epiphany.

Placing less exclusive emphasis on December 25 as the day of
presents and also curtailing its gifts somewhat makes it easier
to place more emphasis on the religious aspects of that great
holy day. Do other children think ours are queer? Not at all. If
anything, they are a bit envious of children who receive Yule
gifts so early and who enjoy such a happy feast as our
traditional St. Nicholas Day party. Having an early gift day also
makes it possible for the children to give some of these gifts as
Christmas presents to other less fortunate children.

Treats of the St. Nicholas party are the exchange of gifts,
genuine Dutch cookies and Bishopwyn (bishop's wine). For children
the wine is grape juice. But the grownups who face the high
December winds along the Hudson River to pick up their children
at our house always welcome the mulled Bishopwyn. Its recipe is
from our favorite cook book, "Cooking for Christ" by Florence

1 bottle of Claret 6 cloves 4 inches stick cinnamon

Break cinnamon into small pieces. Simmer wine and spices for
about five minutes. Strain wine. Serve hot.

The Speculatius, a spice cookie from the Netherlands, like all of
Mrs. Berger's recipes, is foolproof.

1 cup butter 4 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup lard 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 cups brown sugar 1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 cup sour cream 4-1/2 cups sifted flour
1/2 tsp. soda 1/2 cup chopped nuts

Cream the butter, lard and sugar. Add sour cream alternately with
sifted dry ingredients. Stir in the nuts. Knead the dough into
rolls. Wrap the rolls in wax paper and chill them in the
refrigerator overnight. Roll the dough very thin and cut into
shapes. Bake in moderate oven (375 degrees) for 10 to 15

The dough may be cut into St. Nicholas shapes, or into the shape
of birds, fish or animals. We also like to cut out stocking
shapes and ice them in honor of St. Nicholas, patron of school

During the party we light the Advent wreath candle, and the
children sing Advent hymns. All classes at Corpus Christi School
have wreaths, but some of the children do not have them at home.
We have found that parents, enjoying their Bishopwyn, have become
interested in the wreath and have integrated the Advent program
of school and home as a result of the St. Nicholas Day party.

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