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Free pretzels today: Celebrate pretzel history (but you have to tell a joke)

April 26, 2013|By Amy Hubbard
  • Can you spot the pretzels? Pieter Bruegel created "The Fight Between Carnival and Lent" in 1559.
Can you spot the pretzels? Pieter Bruegel created "The Fight Between… (Wikimedia Commons )

Free pretzels are being offered today at the Pretzelmaker chain to celebrate National Pretzel Day (find locations below).

Now there's a holiday that flies low under the radar. Yet it was 30 years ago that Pennsylvania Rep. Robert S. Walker declared a commemorative day for pretzels. It didn't stick. The holiday was re-declared in 2003 by Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. 

And now it's celebrated with huge parties and pretzel parades worldwide! No, it's not. But it is a great day to refresh our love for what some historians believe to be the world's oldest snack food (not to be confused with the world's oldest McDonald's hamburger).

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Did you know:

-- Pretzels may have gotten their start around AD 610 in a European monastery, where monks folded scraps of dough to resemble a child's arms folded in prayer. Can you spot the pretzels in the 1559 painting (Pieter Bruegel's "The Fight Between Carnival and Lent") above?*

-- According to Guinness World Records, the largest pretzel weighed 842 pounds and was 26 feet, 10 inches in length and 10 feet, 2 inches in width. It was made in Neufahrn, Germany, on Sept. 21, 2008. It required nearly 1,184 pounds of dough.

-- The first commercial pretzel factory was established in 1861 in Pennsylvania (thus the Pennsylvania officials' unflagging interest in the baked good).

-- It is said that Americans consume 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of pretzels a year, but Philadelphians tend to eat about 12 times that amount.

Ready for a pretzel?

For a free salted or unsalted pretzel at Pretzelmaker (which has a number of California locations), all that's required is a joke.  No word on whether it has to be family-appropriate. In 2010 and 2011, the pretzel chain asked that customers sing for a free pretzel.  In 2012, they gave the option of dancing. Compared with that, a joke doesn't sound so bad.

(*The pretzels are in the lower right hand corner.)

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