Beer and pretzels…the official food and drink of Lent?
In the Middle Ages, the rules of fasting and abstinence were quite tougher than today, excluding not only meat but also eggs and dairy products. That meant a lot of bread, veggies, and water!
According to legend, a monk in the 600s in Italy decided to make a special Lenten bread for his fellow-monks. He took a long strip of dough and arranged it in the shape of arms folded over the breast in prayer. The three holes left by this shape represented the Trinity. These little breads were called bracellae, the Latin word for “little arms,” from which came the German word bretzel.
Another story says that the monk gave these folded breads to children as a reward for learning their prayers. The Latin word for “little reward” is pretiola (pre-tzi-OH-la), which sounds a lot like pretzel!
What about the beer?
In the 1600s, a monastery in southern Germany began brewing beer to give the monks needed strength during their long days of fasting on bread and vegetables. They came up with a hearty concoction containing a lot of nutrients and carbs—the now-famous doppelbock beer, also known as “liquid bread.” Paulaner Brewery, which took over the original site of the monastery, adopted the brewing methods of the monks and still makes this beer today.
You can learn more about the origins of the pretzel and other Lenten traditions in Celebrating a Holy Catholic Easter. Brought to you by Fr. William Saunders—bestselling author of Celebrating a Merry Catholic Christmas—this book is a fun and fascinating guide to the Church’s beautiful liturgies, devotions, and customs of Lent, Holy Week, and Easter. Available today at The Catholic Company!