March 10, 2018 9:45 am
Every year on the fourth Sunday of Lent, Luxembourgers celebrate Pretzel Sunday. Therefore, this is a welcome opportunity for us to present to you the I-ATE Food Term of this week – Pretzel – a popular soft bread product traditionally shaped into a twisted knot. The term itself comes from the Latin word for arm, brachium, which then became the word Bretzel or Brezel in German and from there evolved to the English word pretzel.
While in Luxembourg, Pretzels are typically sweet and made of puffy pastry and garnished with fondant icing and almonds, they were originally seasoned with salt. Indeed, the most common image people have in their head when thinking of a Pretzel is possibly that of a reddish brown salty pastry wrapped in a blue and white chequered napkin next to a Weisswurst sausage and a wheat beer from Munich’s Oktoberfest. This Pretzel variation owes its shiny skin and authentic taste to a chemical reaction induced by washing soda or lye treatment. However, not only Luxembourgers and Germans love the twisted soft bread: Pretzel is a popular snack all around the world. In France it is known as bretzel, Italians call it brezel, the Polish name is precel, Hungarians and Croatians know it as perec while Serbians call it pereca, in the Czech Republic it is called preclík and Slovaks call it praclík. Romanian’s salted and twisted Pretzel variety is called covrigi and is commonly topped with poppy and sesame seeds or large salt grains.Finnish Pretzels, viipurinrinkeli, are typically filled with cardamom and nutmeg. As far as we know, viipurinrinkeli owe their origin to Franciscan monks from Vyborg, a Russian city near the Finnish border. In Switzerland, soft Butterbrezel is the most popular variety and is, as the name anticipates, filled with an ample amount of butter. In the United States, you will more than likely come across the soft Pretzel’s crunchy hard-baked brother, a classic snack for parties and to go. Hard Pretzels in America come in numerous flavours and coatings, from the traditional one to yoghurt or chocolate. Last but not least, a famous Dutch Pretzel variety is Krakeling, a Pretzel-shaped cookie which is also widely eaten in Scandinavia (Norwegian and Danes call it kringle and the Swedish equivalent is kringla).
As far as we know, today’s Pretzel’s predecessor was invented by European monks and therefore consists of religious significance regarding ingredients as well as shape. The knot shape was said to represent praying hands while the three holes within the twisted Pretzel were regarded as the three entities of the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Given the simple and basic ingredients, traditional Pretzels were made of flour and water. The twisted soft bread could be eaten during Lent, which is why it came to be more and more associated with Lent, fasting and pre-Easter prayers.
As the Luxembourgish tradition goes, girls are offered Pretzels by their admirers on Pretzel Sunday. If a girl accepts the Pretzel, her sweetheart is invited to her house on Easter Day when he will be given eggs in return. It is in this sense that, as far as the Luxembourgish tradition goes, a Pretzel represents two lovers arm in arm. However, if the girl does not accept the boy’s offer, he is ‘given a basket’ (from Luxembourgish ‘de Kuerf kréien‘) which also, interestingly, means ‘to be rejected’ in many other languages.
Happy Pretzel Sunday to everyone!
Written by Lissa Haid-Schmallenberg, Study Visitor at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg). Lissa is a student at the University of Luxembourg and currently enrolled in the trilingual Master Learning and Communication in multilingual and multicultural Contexts. She holds a Bachelor degree in Social and Cultural Education from the University of Bologna, Italy.
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Tags: Germany, Lent, Lent tradition, Luxembourg, Pretzel