Every year, on the fourth Sunday of Lent, Luxembourgers celebrate Pretzel Sunday. In sync with the Easter Season, we present to you the I-ATE Food Term of this week: “Pretzel Sunday“. Pretzels are a popular type of soft bread 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 into the English word “pretzel”.
Today’s Luxembourgish pretzels are typically sweet, made of puff pastry and garnished with fondant icing and almonds, but they were originally salty. Indeed, what comes to most people’s mind when thinking about pretzels is 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 this twisted soft bread: the pretzel is a popular snack all over 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. Instead, Serbians call it pereca, for the Slovaks it is a praclík and in the Czech Republic it is called preclík. Romanians’ salted and twisted pretzel variety is called covrigi and is commonly topped with poppy and sesame seeds or large grains of salt. Finnish pretzels, viipurinrinkeli, are typically filled with cardamom and nutmeg. It seems that tradition of waiting until Pretzel Sunday for having a viipurinrinkeli was passed by the Franciscan monks of Vyborg, a Russian city near the Finnish border. In Switzerland, the soft butterbrezel is the most popular variety and, as the name suggests, it is 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 party snack. The crunchy US pretzels come in numerous flavours and coatings, from the traditional ones to those coated in yoghurt or chocolate. Last but not least, a famous Dutch pretzel variety is the krakeling, a pretzel-shaped cookie which is widely eaten also in Scandinavia (Norwegian and Danes call it kringle and the Swedish equivalent is kringla).
As far as we know, the current pretzel’s predecessor was invented by European monks and, therefore, is rich of religious symbolism in its ingredients as well as in its shape. The knot shape is said to represent praying hands while the three holes inside the twisted pretzel were regarded as the three entities of the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Being made simply of flour and water, the twisted soft bread could be eaten during Lent, which is why it became 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 Sunday, when he will be offered eggs in return. It is for this reason 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!
AnydayGuide. 2021. Pretzel Sunday in Luxembourg / March 14, 2021
[ONLINE] Available at: https://anydayguide.com/calendar/3186. [Accessed 15 March 2021].
The Daily Meal. 2021. Soft, Hard, Twisted, and Straight: 11 Pretzels Around the World. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.thedailymeal.com/travel/soft-hard-twisted-and-straight-11-pretzels-around-world-0. [Accessed 15 March 2021].
Wikipedia. 2021. Covrigi – Wikipedia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covrigi. [Accessed 15 March 2021].
Wikipedia. 2021. Pretzel – Wikipedia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pretzel. [Accessed 15 March 2021].
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.
Edited by Maria Bruno, Schuman Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit. She holds a master’s degree in Translation and a bachelor’s degree in Italian Language and Literature. She is trained in websites and social media management, content writing and SEO. Currently, she is studying for her Diplôme Universitaire in Terminology at the University of Savoie-Mont Blanc.