April 26 is National Pretzel Day, a time to honor and enjoy one of America’s favorite, twisted snacks.
Whether you prefer a large, soft pretzel or a bag of smaller, crunchy snacks — any way you eat a pretzel is sure to hit the spot.
The pretzel’s origin has been tied to certain Christian faiths, including the Catholic Church, which dictated stricter rules on fasting and abstinence during Lent in the seventh century, according to History.com.
The pretzel’s twisted origin
At one point, all types of meat, dairy and eggs were prohibited during the 40 days of Lent. Pretzels, which are made of water, flour and salt, became an ideal food to eat during this period.
The first pretzels were baked as soft, squishy bread, similar to the soft pretzels made today, History.com says. Some have said the food was originally called "bracellae," the Latin term for "little arms," from which Germans later derived the word "bretzel."
Early pretzels were also called "pretiolas," meaning "little rewards," and handed out by the monks when their young pupils recited their prayers correctly, according to History.com.
A soft pretzel is pictured in a file image. (Photo By Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)
Regardless, the twisty treats soon spread across Europe during the Middle Ages. By the 17th century, the interlocking loops of the pretzel had come to symbolize undying love.
"Pretzel legend has it that in 1614 in Switzerland, royal couples used a pretzel in their wedding ceremonies (similar to how a wishbone might be used today) to seal the bond of matrimony, and that this custom may have been the origin of the phrase ‘tying the knot,’" History.com said.
Today, pretzels remain a beloved treat around the world, even earning a special day celebrated by employees on NBC’s "The Office."
In the U.S., Pennsylvania has become the American pretzel-making capital with companies like Snyder’s of Hanover, and 80% of all pretzels sold in the U.S. are made in the state.
In celebration of the day, here are some U.S. chains offering pretzel freebies and deals:
Auntie Anne’s is giving a free Original or Cinnamon Sugar pretzel to its Pretzel Perks members all day long on April 26. The offer is limited to one per person.
Philly Pretzel Factory
Philly Pretzel Factory, a soft pretzel franchise with over 160 stores across several U.S. states, is offering one free pretzel at any location on April 26. No purchase is required.
Wetzel's Pretzels is giving away a free original pretzel on April 26 between 3 p.m. local time and close at its locations nationwide.
Editor's note: A version of this article was published on April 26, 2022. The deals have been updated for National Pretzel Day 2023.
This story was reported from Cincinnati.