National Pretzel Day 2024: Here's where you can get a free pretzel

FILE - A detail view of soft pretzels before the NCAA Division I Mens Lacrosse Championships Semifinal game between the Duke Blue Devils and the Penn State Nittany Lions on May 27, 2023, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Erica

National Pretzel Day is on Friday, April 26, a time to celebrate a beloved salty, twisted snack. 

Whether you prefer a large, soft pretzel or a bag of smaller, crunchy snacks — any way you eat a pretzel is sure to hit the spot. 

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The pretzel’s origin has been tied to certain Christian faiths, including the Catholic Church, which dictated stricter rules on fasting and abstinence during Lent in the seventh century, according to 

The pretzel’s twisted origin

At one point, all types of meat, dairy and eggs were prohibited during the 40 days of Lent. Pretzels, which are made of water, flour and salt, became an ideal food to eat during this period.

The first pretzels were baked as soft, squishy bread, similar to the soft pretzels made today, says. Some have said the food was originally called "bracellae," the Latin term for "little arms," from which Germans later derived the word "bretzel."

Early pretzels were also called "pretiolas," meaning "little rewards," and handed out by the monks when their young pupils recited their prayers correctly, according to 

Regardless, the twisty treats soon spread across Europe during the Middle Ages. By the 17th century, the interlocking loops of the pretzel had come to symbolize undying love. 

"Pretzel legend has it that in 1614 in Switzerland, royal couples used a pretzel in their wedding ceremonies (similar to how a wishbone might be used today) to seal the bond of matrimony, and that this custom may have been the origin of the phrase ‘tying the knot,’" said.

Today, pretzels remain a beloved treat around the world, even earning a special day celebrated by employees on NBC’s "The Office." 

In the U.S., Pennsylvania has become the American pretzel-making capital with companies like Snyder’s of Hanover, and 80% of all pretzels sold in the U.S. are made in the state, according to the state’s tourism board

In celebration of the day, here are some U.S. chains offering pretzel freebies and deals:

Auntie Anne's 

Auntie Anne’s is giving a free Original or Cinnamon Sugar pretzel to its Pretzel Perks members all day long on April 26 at locations nationwide. The offer is limited to one per person. 

Philly Pretzel Factory

Philly Pretzel Factory, a soft pretzel franchise with over 160 stores across several U.S. states, is offering one free pretzel at any location on April 26. No purchase is required. The offer is also good at Walmart, the company said. 

Additionally, customers who use the mobile app will earn double points for any purchase that day.

Wetzel's Pretzels

Wetzel's Pretzels is giving away a free pretzel on April 26 after 3 p.m. local time until close at its locations nationwide.

Editor's note: A version of this article was published on April 26, 2022. The deals have been updated for National Pretzel Day 2024.

This story was reported from Cincinnati.