Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Lenten Foods: The Pretzel

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” was first coined by Richard Franck’s in ‘Northern Memoirs, calculated for the meridian of Scotland‘ in 1658 (as best as we can tell). It is interesting to observe how many traditions were embraced due to necessity. Foods during Lent are no exception. Take the pretzel for instance.

Many say that the pretzel started out as a Lenten snack because of its original shape that seemed to mimic arms folded in prayer. One etymology of the word pretzel states that it is derived from Latin meaning branched with little arms.[1] Others explain this simple food as the perfect Lenten fast food since no dairy, eggs, or lard is used among the simple ingredients of flour, water and salt.

Another explanation shares that it was a common reward for children when they learned their prayers.[2] Accordingly, this simple bread received the name pretzel which in this interpretation means “little reward.”

Still another account says that a pious monk took the bread dough folded the strands over to make them in the shape of arms and so was born the pretzel. Whatever the explanation, it has taken on the persona of being a Lenten food. Who am I to argue? I just think they are good in season and out!


[1] Peter Klein, ed., The Catholic Source Book, 3rd ed. (Dubuque, Iowa: ACTA Publications, 2000), p. 300

[2] Ibid.

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