Wednesday, 31 March 2010 15:01

The History of Pretzels and its Easter Connection

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Pretzel in a German bakery Pretzel in a German bakery


Did you know that pretzels were invented by Italian monks? Yes, the popular snack that goes so well in Chex Mix and is sold on practically every street corner in New York City and every mall in America has Christian roots. One of the stories of its invention is shared in The History of Science and Technology by Bran Bunch and Alexander Hellemans, an Italian monk is credited with the invention (in 610AD). It is said that the monk made pretzels as a reward for children who learned their prayers. The "pretiola (little rewards)," which is made of dough, is folded to resemble arms crossing the chest in prayer.



Pretzels are served in both soft and hard versions. Those made of sour or yeast dough are assumed to have Christian Medieval European roots. In the Catholic church they were important for their shape and their ingredients. During the season of Lent, eggs and dairy products like milk and butter were forbidden; therefore, pretzels were made with a simple recipe using flour and water.  It has since become associated with Lent and Easter. The snack was hidden just like Easter eggs are hidden today.

The three holes of the pretzel represents the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The myth associated with pretzels implies they bring luck, prosperity and spiritual wholeness. Even the marital phrase "tying the knot" comes from a pretzel being used to tie a knot between two prominent families. 


The German name for pretzels is "Brezel" thought to have derived from the Latin word "bracellus"  or "bracchiola " which means "bracelet"  or "little arms." Pretzels are such a part of German baking, especially Southern Germany, many of their bakers guilds use the pretzel in their emblems.

Pretzel Trivia

Biberach pretzels are popular during Lent. They are shortly boiled in water before baking then sprinkled with salt.

The town of Weidenberg  celebrates the Pretzel weeks during the carnival season when anise flavored pretzels are served with special dishes such as cooked meat with horse radish or roast

Southeastern Philadelphia, with its large German population, is considered the birthplace of the American pretzel.

Article by Monica Johnson

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