Honey Liqueur: A Christmas Tradition | News
For the past 30 Christmas seasons, Fr. Czeslaw Krysa has made a honey liqueur called Krupnik. "The recipe is handed over to me by my father, perfected by a number of priests, and also people from Poland who enjoy this stuff at Christmas-time 'cause it really warms your throat and your whole digestive system and your soul as well."
The Krupnik is an element of the Polish celebration of Christmas which begins with a spiritually centered Christmas Eve Supper called Wigilia. The table is covered by a white tablecloth with hay spread underneath in a recreation of Christ's manger. Twelve specially-prepared meatless dishes represent Christ's twelve Apostles.
When the first star is spotted in the sky, all gather around the table to pray and share a specially baked wafer thin bread called Oplatek. During its sharing, all present wish each other well and plead for forgiveness for any of the past year's transgressions.
Supper follows with dishes of fish, cabbage, pierogi, soup, grains and sweets because as Fr. Krysa explains, "all of creation, my father would say, north, south, east and west, everything meets at the table that day to give Glory to Jesus when the first star comes out."
Even honeybees offer the fruits of their labor for the night's feast.
"Honey is part of the Wigilia custom," Fr. Krysa says, "A land of milk and honey happens at the table, so you have to have honey in your cakes, honey with your poppy seeds and so on. After you finish eating, that's when you have a shot of krupnik at the table and then everybody goes to the Christmas tree to sing Christmas carols."
Christmas Eve is just the beginning of Polish Christmas. "We don't throw the tree out on the 26th, or the joy in our hearts out for that matter." Fr. Krysa says. The period of celebration continues with visiting other families. "I'm from Niagara Falls, where our family would go from house to house during Christmas season singing carols outside the door. Then they'd let us in and then we would try how their Krupnik came out that year and have something to eat, because to have a bunch of carolers come to your home is a blessing! Not like, 'Oh, I don't know what to do.'"
"We celebrate Christmas not just for 12 days, but for 40 days in the Polish tradition. Up until the Jesus' baby stories are all over with in the Gospel, in other words, the presentation in the Temple, which is Feb. 2. So we have a whole 40 days to try everybody's Krupnik from house to house."
This year's Krupnik was made at the Woloszyn family farm in Delavan, N.Y. Todd, a family friend, assisted Fr. Krysa in exchange for learning how to make the beverage.
A recipe for Krupnik can be found in Fr. Krysa's book "A Polish Christmas Eve", a 274 page guide to the Polish celebration of Christmas. Information about the book can be found at: http://www.StCasimirBuf.org under Polish Heritage --> Publications.
Fr. Krysa currently serves as the Rector of St. Casimir Oratory, located in the Kaisertown neighborhood of Buffalo.
The video and print version of this story were produced by Andy Golebiowski, Photojournalist at WGRZ.