April 26 is National Pretzel Day. There are many stories regarding the origin of the Pretzel. Some believe it originated by Christian monks in Italy around 610 A.D and the shape resembled arms crossed in prayer. Others believe it originated in various parts of Europe as a means of nutrition during Lent when other food types were not allowed to be eaten. It was used as a reward, a symbol of love (thus the term “tying the knot”) and by the 1600’s, Germans were wearing pretzel necklaces around their necks on New Year’s Day as a symbol of good luck and prosperity. As Germans settled in Pennsylvania in the 1700’s, this region became the birthplace of pretzels in the United States.
Pennsylvania Pretzel fun facts: In 2003, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell declared April 26 as National Pretzel Day to acknowledge the importance of the pretzel to the state’s history and economy.
Hard pretzels were “invented” in the late 1600s, when a baker fell asleep in a Pennsylvania bakery and accidentally over baked his pretzels. This created what seemed an inedible, knot of dough. His job was spared when the master baker took an angry bite out of one–and loved it.
Julius Sturgis opened the first commercial pretzel bakery in Lititz, Pennsylvania, in 1861. He received his original pretzel recipe as a thank you from a down-on-his-luck job seeker after Sturgis gave the man dinner. You can visit and take a tour at the original site (when our economy re-opens). This family fun activity is in nearby Lancaster County.
Reading Pretzel Machinery Company introduced the first automated pretzel machine, which enabled large bakeries to make 245 pretzels per minute, or five tons in a day.
Eighty percent of US pretzels are made in Pennsylvania and per Statista which you can access from the library database, pretzel sales reached 1.24 billion U.S. dollars from May 2018-May 2019. The average U.S. citizen consumes up to two pounds of pretzels per year, but Philadelphians snack on about 12 pounds of pretzels per person every year.
Let’s follow this easy recipe to make some pretzels today with your family in honor of National Pretzel Day!