In some rural parts of America, where "Plain and Fancy" is still vogue, there is a wonderful old custom of stringing Pretzels with red yarn and hanging them on the Christmas tree. The origin of this delightful custom is found in this inspirational old tale of How the Pretzel Saved Christmas for at least one small village in the Alps.
It was only a few weeks before Christmas in 610 A.D. The monastery bakery was in preparation for the holidays. Brother Bachman was earnestly kneading bread dough while he watched the village children playing in the snow outside the chapel window. "It's too bad they aren't as interested in coming to church and learning their prayers," he thought.
The growing apathy of the village folks saddened him. "If only there was some way to get them back to the church." Brother Bachman continued to work the dough and ponder his dilemma. As he was finishing up the last loaves of bread, he was suddenly struck with a most original idea. He thoughtfully gathered up the leftover dough and began to form pencil-like strips, which he then twisted into a shape that looked like a child's arms folded in prayer. "Ah!. . .a Pretiola!" he declared, which in Latin meant little reward.
He opened the bakery window and called out to the children. "Come in, come in. . .say your prayers, and I will give you a Pretiola!" It didn't take much convincing. Soon each child had learned a prayer and proudly received a "little reward." Rushing home, the children excitedly told their parents. Word of Brother Bachman's idea soon spread through the village, and children and parents alike visited the chapel to receive a Pretiola.
One child proudly placed his Pretiola on the small church's Christmas tree. . .not to be outdone, the others followed. Soon the entire tree was beautifully decorated with this unique symbol of their achievements. The Christmas Prayer Service that year was especially festive and bright. The church was filled with families once again. And. . .as the cheerful voices rose in prayer and song together, Brother Bachman smiled joyfully and thanked the Lord for little rewards.
The Pretiola soon found its way into Germany and Austria. It became a symbol of excellence used to reward worthy accomplishments as the church and youth programs flourished.
Through the centuries, Pretiola became known as "Pretzel" as we know it today, and decorating the Christmas tree with Pretzels became a special family tradition that continues. . .thanks to Brother Bachman's bakery inspiration.