Pretzels have an ancient history, but the origin of the pretzel remains a mystery. There are many stories as to how the first pretzel was created, the most common being that in 610 A.D. Italian monks used scraps of dough to form the shape of children’s arms in prayer, with three holes to represent the Christian Trinity. They were called “pretiola” in Latin or “little reward” and were given to children who learned their bible verses and prayers.
Here are a few of the steps along the
pretzel’s long and storied history:
- In 1440 a page in the prayer book used by Catharine of Cleves depicted St. Bartholomew surrounded by pretzels. They were thought to bring good luck, prosperity and spiritual wholeness.
- There's evidence of the first street vendor in approximately 1483. Portable ovens on wheels allowed bakers to peddle pretzels from door-to-door.
- During The Battle of 1510 in Vienna, the Turks tunneled under Vienna’s city walls. Pretzel bakers were busy at work and detected the invasion. They gathered make-shift weapons and roused the city to defend itself. In return for shielding all of Europe, the Austrian Emperor honored the pretzel bakers with a coat of arms.
- It's speculated that the term “Tying the Knot” originated in Switzerland in 1614 when royal couples wished for happiness with a pretzel forming the nuptial knot.
- The Palantine Germans, later known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, brought pretzels to America in 1710. German children wore the pretzels around their necks on New Year's for good luck.