The Legend of the Lenten Pretzel:
Legend has it that the modern pretzel is actually has its origin in ancient Lenten celebration. The established church at the time did not allow the eating of meat or dairy products during the observance of Lent. As such, people would make bread from a simple mixture of flour, water, and salt. As the legend unfolds, it is purported that a monk in a monastery was looking for a way to make use of the leftover scraps of dough that didn’t fit into the loaf pans. He wondered if he might not be able to use it to bless the hungry children to whom the monetary ministered.
His idea was to roll the dough scraps into long, thin ropes which he would then shape into the image of hands folded over the heart in prayer. He called them pretiolas (which means “little rewards” in Latin). He then distributed to them to the children in exchange for a recitation of a memorized prayer, explaining the pretrial’s shape and reminding the children to always pray and trust God.
While the legend has been around for centuries, there is no factual, historical evidence for it. Even so, the pretzel has become a traditional Lenten treat around the world.
Object lesson: Make a batch of pretzel dough enough for the number of children in your class. Have each child thoroughly wash their hand. Distribute lumps of dough on a large sheet of waxed paper to each child and guide them in rolling out their ropes and shaping them into a pretzel. Place them in the oven to bake as you explain the legend. This should open up lively conversation about Lent, the practice of “giving up” certain things (like meat or milk) to identify with Christ’s suffering, or the topic of growing closer to God through heartfelt prayer.
"Even now," declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity” (Joel 2:12-13).