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A Pretzel for Lent

By Fr. Johann Roten, S.M.

There was a time when pretzels were eaten only during Lent. They appeared each year on Ash Wednesday and disappeared on Good Friday. The tradition goes back to the fifth century. Apparently, there is even a manuscript in the Vatican Library dating from that period which shows a Lenten pretzel. As to the shape: pretzels are made in the shape of two arms crossed in prayer. In Latin, the pretzel is called bracellae, meaning little arms. The word bracellae became the German bretzel and pretzel. Early Christians refrained from eating dairy products during Lent. Pretzels were made of flour, salt, and water. They had a special meaning. The simplicity of water, salt, and flour suggested commitment and attention, not least also prayer. A pretzel for Lent! It will keep us sober, committed, and attentive.


The image is from Wikimedia Commons by David Benbennick, 2005.

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