Pre-Lenten & Lenten Foods


 Pre-Lenten Foods: See Customs page.

Lenten Foods: 1. Pretzels | 2. Soups | 3. Hot Cross Buns | Works Consulted


1. Pretzels

The humble pretzel is actually the Lenten bread of classical Christianity. In the 400s, because the fast was so strict (e.g., no eggs or butter), Roman Christians made bread during Lent out of flour, water, and salt. And to remind themselves that Lent was a time of prayer, they shaped the bread in the form of praying arms (before the gesture of folded hands, Christians used to pray with their arms crossed in front of them). They called these breads bracellae, Latin for "little arms," and from this term comes our word "pretzel."

Though the pretzel is now more associated with Happy Hour or Super Bowl Sunday, its original significance may still be retrieved. And it should be, since it is a food rich in symbolic meaning. A pretzel at dinner every day during Lent would serve as a subtle yet powerful reminder of the season.


 2. Soups

Since Lent is obviously not the time for bountiful feasts, simple dishes take their place. Predominant among these are soups, which tend to vary according to nationality. Poles, for example, have special recipes for Lenten vegetable or yellow split pea soups. Cookbooks such as Evelyn Birge Vitz's A Continual Feast (SF: Ignatius Press, 1985) provide further information, or one can simply begin a family tradition of one's own.

3. Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns are an English custom eaten only on Good Friday. The legend is that Father Rocliff of St. Alban's Abbey in Hertfordshire distributed the first of these buns on Good Friday in 1361 to each poor person who came to the abbey. The custom spread throughout the country and endured well into the nineteenth century.

Works Consulted


  • St. Andrew Daily Missal, by Dom Gaspar Lefebrve, O.S.B. (1952, though recently reprinted)
  • Abbot Gueranger, O.S.B., The Liturgical Year, trans. by Dom Laurence Shepherd, O.S.B. (Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1948)
  • Herbert Thurston, S.J., Lent and Holy Week (London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1904)
  • Francis X. Weiser, S.J., The Easter Book (NY: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1954)
    • Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs (NY: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1958)
    • Religious Customs in the Family (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1956)



The Meaning of Septuagesima & Lent

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