Kayla Breese/River News
Guests sampled hot soup, warm bread and dessert Friday evening at Rhinelander’s St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church.
1/10/2017 7:28:00 AM 12 Merry Cooks celebration draws 50 guests
Kayla Breese Feature Writer
Approximately 50 people enjoyed a warm meal Friday evening as Rhinelander's Saint Augustine's Episcopal Church opened its 12 Merry Cooks on the 12th Day of Christmas celebration to the public.
The event is held annually in celebration of the Epiphany, the day when wise men visited baby Jesus, according to Christian theology, and doubles as a benefit for the Table, a free community meal served at St. Augustine's the last day of every month.
"Actually, Christmas doesn't start until the 25th of December," said Rev. Meredyth Albright of St. Augustine's. "In the secular world and in the shopping world it's always before leading up to Christmas, but technically in the church calendar that's advent. We're getting ready for the birth of Jesus and then during Christmas we're getting to know Jesus. So the 12 days of Christmas actually come after Christmas."
For those who observe nativity scenes, they'll notice that baby Jesus isn't in the manger until Dec. 25, and the wise men and the camels don't come until 12 days after Christmas, she added.
"There's theological questions as to when, was it two years, how long did it take the wise men to find Jesus? So that's what Epiphany is, the knowledge of Jesus being shared with the gentiles of the time," Albright said.
This was the first year the church opened the 12 Merry Cooks celebration to the public and Albright said she was "very pleased" with the response.
She added that the parish may be open the event to the public again next year.
The idea to expand the celebration was born after members brought friends to last year's event, organizers said.
Food is an enormous part of the event as the approximately 50 participants sampled delicious dishes prepared by 12 church members, including cheese broccoli soup, Italian wedding soup, creamy carrot ginger soup, chili, French bread, muffins and desserts.
Those who sampled the food dropped tokens in buckets designated for each chef, signifying which dishes they liked best.
The winners of the soup, bread and dessert categories were crowned at the end of the evening.
"I think it's great, wonderful," said first-time attendee Walt Gager. "The food is really good."
Gager tried three of the four soups, some bread, a muffin and dessert. He said he was especially pleased the event benefits The Table.
"I think it's wonderful, absolutely," he said. "We support (The Table) 100 percent."
Diane Dei Rossi, another first-time attendee, was grateful for the warm meal on an especially frigid evening.
"It's wonderful, perfect for a night like this," she said, adding that she tried almost everything and was having a hard time deciding into whose buckets she should drop her tokens.
"It's a great event with great cooks and perfect hot food for a cold night," she said.
Dennis Reissmann made chili for the second year in a row. He was pleased with the number of people in attendance.
"I think it's great," he said. "It's a wonderful turnout compared to last year. It's just a lot of fun, people that are cooking enjoy cooking, and the people that come seem to enjoy the food and I just hope that we can continue."
Different organizations sponsor The Table, and some are tight on funds. The proceeds from the "Merry Cooks' event will be used to help those organizations.
Depending on the number of people being served at The Table - usually around 80 - it costs organizations approximately $300 for the food.
The Table meal is served at 5:30 p.m. on the last day of every month.
Kayla Breese may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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