The Short and Twisted History of the Pretzel

The Short and Twisted History of the Pretzel

Food & Drink

The Short and Twisted History of the Pretzel


The pretzel, a perennial staple of Oktoberfest celebrations, has a rich and interesting history, going back hundreds of years. Here are the highlights.

â‹… The pretzel was invented sometime around the 6th century A.D.

â‹… Legend has it that a monk/baker was fooling around with some leftover dough, and twisted it until it resembled a person’s arms crossed in prayer (which was the traditional posture for prayer back then).

â‹… Pretzels were once part of the wedding ceremony. Couples wished upon the pretzel and broke it like a wishbone, then ate it to symbolize their unity.

⋅ A 17th century woodcut copied from a cathedral in Bern, Switzerland, depicts a ‘marriage knot’ in the shape of a pretzel.

â‹… Centuries ago, pretzels were a common way to distribute food to the poor.

â‹… At one time, pretzels were often put into the caskets of the dead, similar to the way jewels were buried with the rich.

â‹… The first American pretzel bakery began when a kindly baker gave a drifter a free meal in the 1850’s. In return, the drifter gave the baker a recipe for European pretzels, and the baker made him a baker’s apprentice. The pretzels they created were the first versions of the hard and crusty Pennsylvania Dutch pretzel.

â‹… German children tied pretzels on a string around their necks at the start of a new year for good luck in the coming year.

â‹… The largest pretzel ever baked came in at 40 lbs., 5-feet across, created by Joe Nacchio of Federal Baking, Philadelphia, PA.

â‹… Who can forget Kramer’s one line of dialog for his bit part in a Woody Allen film on an episode of Seinfeld? His repeated rehearsal of the line, ‘These pretzels are making me thirsty,’ is fondly remembered by fans of the TV series.


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