Free pretzels today to celebrate National Pretzel Day

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(Photo: Wikipedia)

(CNN) — Twist and shout! April 26 is National Pretzel Day.

Many companies are giving away free pretzels including Pretzelmaker.

No matter which way you twist them (or don’t), pretzels are a popular snack. Their origin however, might surprise you.

Seventh century French and Italian monks rewarded children who’d learned their Bible verses with pretzels. It’s been said that the way pretzels are twisted to represent someone with their arms crossed in prayer, and that the three holes made by the twists represent the father, son and holy spirit. To back this all up, the word pretzel derives from the Latin word for “little reward” and the Italian word for “little arms.”

Throughout history, pretzels have also had a pretty prominent seat at some important tables. They were eaten at Good Friday dinners, served at weddings to bring luck and prosperity, and even saved the city of Vienna from Ottoman rule. Apparently, pretzel bakers heard the Ottoman Turks tunneling under the city walls and alerted the guards, who thwarted the attack.

While the early pretzels were the soft kind, we have the Pennsylvania Dutch to thank for the hard, crunchy kind. In fact, Pennsylvania still makes most of America’s pretzels — 80% of them to be exact. That’s a lot when you consider that $1 billion worth of pretzels are sold annually.

Whether you like them hard or soft, with or without salt, dipped in mustard or nothing at all, it’s clear that pretzels aren’t going anywhere. And, if you’d like to help celebrate the day, check with your local pretzel seller as some are giving their twisted snack away for free.