Soft Pretzel Catechesis

Saturday’s big meatless meal was Soft Pretzels and Cold Veggies with Beer Cheese Dip.  Pretzels were first created hundreds of years ago during Lent.  When school children in Germany learned their lessons well, they would receive a little treat, but during Lent food, especially fats and sweets, was scarce, and that’s hardly because the mean-old-church was telling people they’d go to hell for eating fried foods.  It was just simple reality:  there were no chest freezers, no canned goods, no corporate farms, no fast food whenever you wanted it… there was just what could be grown locally, and during the winter and early spring, there was just this side of nothing left.  They had to conserve, so fasting was at least a survival tool, even if it wasn’t being used as a spiritual exercise. 

So, back to the German school kids.  The monks who taught them gave the good students little strips of bread dough, twisted  into a shape of a child with his hands crossed over his chest in prayer.  Now I’ve seen that the name pretzel came from the Latin word “pretolia” for prize, and I’ve seen it come from the German word “bretzel,” which means arms, referencing the arms-folded-in-prayer design.  I kind of wonder if the monks mashed the words together to create the world “pretzel.” 

Anyway, that’s the history.  Here’s the little lesson that comes in the making of the pretzels at home:

  •  As you’re rolling out the dough into ropes with your children, remind them that Jesus is the Bread of Life who came down to us from heaven.  Just like we plan to make these ropes into pretzels, God had a plan for Jesus, and He has a plan for each one of us, too. 
  • As you make the shape of the crossed arms, remind your children that when the Angel Gabriel came to Mary to ask her to be God’s mommy, she was troubled, but then she said yes and embraced Jesus with her arms, her belly–her whole self, and that is what we are to do.  Then, from that hug, Jesus was born into a human family. 
  • When you’re brushing your pretzels with your egg wash (or brining them, if you’re braver than I), remind the children that a member of Jesus’ family, John the Baptist, baptized Him, even though Jesus was sinless.  This shows us that baptizing innocent babies who have no sin but the Original kind is just fine–it’s claiming their destiny as children of God. 
  • Sprinkle the pretzels and remind the children that we are to be the salt of the earth and make that which seems boring more bearable. 
  • When you’re putting the pretzels into the oven, talk about how Jesus went into the hot desert for 40 days to prepare for His public ministry. 
  • Then, after he came out of the desert he invited people to the Kingdom, just like the smell of the cooling pretzels invite us to eat. 
  • Just before He died, He gave Himself to us in the Eucharist, the Bread of Life that is with us always, until the end of the world. 

About Erin McCole Cupp
Erin McCole Cupp is a wife, mother, and lay Dominican who lives with her family of vertebrates somewhere out in the middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania. Her short writing has appeared in Canticle Magazine, The Catholic Standard and Times, Parents, The Philadelphia City Paper, The White Shoe Irregular, Outer Darkness Magazine, and the newsletter of her children’s playgroup. She is a contributor to and has been a guest blogger for the Catholic Writers Guild. Her other professional experiences include acting, costuming, youth ministry, international scholar advising, and waiting tables. When Erin is not writing, cooking or parenting, she can be found reading, singing a bit too loudly, sewing for people she loves, gardening in spite of herself, or dragging loved ones to visitors centers at tourist spots around the country. Find out more about her novels and other projects at .

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