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Catholic Activity: Ash Wednesday Pretzels: Fastenbrezel

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In Austria, pretzels made on Ash Wednesday are called Fastenbrezel. Katherine Burton explains the religious background for the pretzel. See the recipe section for suggestions.

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Austrians make a pretzel for this day called Fastenbrezel. This is very appropriate, for the pretzel had a religious origin. In other centuries these were made in monasteries and were shaped like a ring with a cross above them. They were known by the Latin name pretiolum, which means a little prize. The monks, so the story goes, gave them as prizes to good students and sometimes to all in their schools who had been good children. From this Latin word has evolved our plebian word pretzel, and of course it is easy to see from its shape that it might well have started in life as a circle and a cross.

Activity Source: Feast Day Cookbook by Katherine Burton and Helmut Ripperger, David McKay Company, Inc., New York, 1951

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