April 26, Pretzel Day. 7 Twisted Facts about the Pretzel

Pretzels were invented to bribe children (probably)

Pretzel in place of honour at banquet of Queen Esther and King Ahasuerus. 12th century hortus deliciarum

We have (probably) a monk from northern Italy to thank for the delicious pretzel.

The legend goes that in 610, a monk-baker hit upon an idea to reward children who had learned their prayers.

He twisted dough so it looked like arms crossing the chest in supplication, baked it, and named it “pretiola”, Latin for “little reward”.

It was a hit, obviously.

Pretzels saved Vienna

Pretzels played a part in saving Vienna from invading Turks in the 16th century.

The Turkish army had been digging tunnels under the city walls late at night in order to issue a surprise attack.

But Viennese pretzel makers who were up late baking heard the digging and thwarted the attack.

The king awarded the bakers with their own coat of arms featuring a pretzel.

To this day, many Viennese bakers still display the coat of arms outside of their shops.

Pretzels are romantic

By the 17th century, the interlocking loops of the pretzel symbolized undying love.

Pretzel legend has it that in 1614 in Switzerland, royal couples used a pretzel in their wedding ceremonies to seal the bond of matrimony and that this custom may have been the origin of the phrase “tying the knot.”

On May 1, love-struck boys used to paint a pretzel on the doors of the adored. On the other hand, an upside-down pretzel would have been a sign of disgrace!

On Bratzelsonndeg (Pretzel Sunday) in Luxembourg, men still give their girlfriend or wife a pretzel, a symbol of love.

There’s a Pretzel Hiking Trail

In the small town of Burg, Germany, pretzel makers are revered.

A local story says that the recipe for the “Burger pretzel” was donated by a grateful Napoleonic soldier in 1795, whose wounds were treated by a local baker’s family.

A pretzel baker monument stands proudly in the town square, while just outside of town you can hike the 18km “Pretzel Hiking Trail.”

Also, people wear pretzels.

Pretzels are holy

St. Bartholomew nestled in a nibbly frame of pretzels, thought to represent spiritual goodness and faith (Photo: The Morgan Library and Museum, New York)

The three holes within the pretzel represent the three persons of the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Pretzels made with a simple recipe using only flour and water could be eaten during Lent when Christians were forbidden to eat eggs, lard, or dairy products such as milk and butter.

As time passed, pretzels became associated with both Lent and Easter.

Pretzels were hidden on Easter morning just as eggs are hidden today, and are particularly associated with Lent, fasting, and prayers before Easter.

In 1440,  the martyred St. Bartholomew is in the prayer book – surrounded by pretzels.

The recently canonized St. Kateri Tekakwhita, the first Native-American saint, is the so-called “patron saint of pretzels.”

The loops were for sticks

Painting by Job Berckheyde (1630–93) from around 1681

The loops in pretzels may have served a very practical purpose.

Bakers could hang them on sticks, for instance, projecting upwards from a central column.

 

Pretzel City, USA

Meet Mr. Twister

For more than 100 years, Freeport has been known as “Pretzel City, USA.”

Their high school athletic mascot is the Pretzel and the football stadium has been appropriately named “Pretzel Field.”

In 2003, local citizens launched Freeport’s first Pretzel Festival where residents get together to celebrate the city’s pretzel history.

Contestants are chosen to be crowned Pretzel Prince and Princess and a festival mascot by the name of “Pretzel Bill” dresses as a 6-foot tall walking talking pretzel.

Siobhan O’Shea is a freelance writer. She writes about pretty much everything but especially likes to bring readers’ attention to new tech, marketing, human behavior, and other oddities.