Jewish Ties to the Bagel on National Bagel Day

Jewish Ties to the Bagel on National Bagel Day

M.C. Millman

National Bagel Day was celebrated nationwide yesterday. Today, we bring you more from this food with surprising ties to Jewish history.

The bagel, a dough that is first boiled and then baked, has a history up for debate. According to a Bellevue University Blog, a common theory is that the bagel can be traced back to the 14th century when German immigrants brought their pretzels to Poland. The pretzel evolved into a round roll with a hole in the middle called "obwarzanek". 

The first written record of the bagel was in 1610 in Krakow. According to Dr. Yvette Alt Miller at Aish, the Jewish Council of Krakow issued a regulation advising the Jewish community to refrain from overly-lavish celebrations for their babies' brisses. Their reason for the regulation was to avoid making gentile neighbors jealous and ensure community members did not go into debt from the celebrations. One key food the regulation assumed would be served at a bris was bagels. Other sources say that the Krakow regulations dictated that bagels were to be given as a gift to women after childbirth.

The origins of the name 'bagel' are also up for dispute. According to the New World Encyclopedia, some historians trace the name to 1683, when a Viennese baker commemorated King Jan III Sobieski of Poland with a ring-like pastry for his victorious final cavalry charge. The pastry was made to look like a stirrup, which is called "Steigbügel". Other historians note that Jews were calling the boiled and baked rolls "bagels" long before, likely deriving the name from the Yiddish word "beigen," which means "to bend."

Bagels arrived in America along with Eastern European immigrants in the 19th century. However, the dense, chewy bread only gained popularity nationwide in the 1980s, appearing as a mainstream food. According to the Bellevue University Blog, the bagel overtook the doughnut in popularity in 1999 when Americans spent three-quarters of a billion dollars a year on bagels compared to only a half billion on doughnuts. Today, the market size of the bagel stores industry, measured by revenue, is $1.4 billion, as reported in IBISWorld.

Bagels used to share a day with National Pizza Day on February 9. In 2019, Thomas' Bagels changed this by registering a new date of January 15 with Chase's Calendar of Events. 

If your diet allows for whole foods, grab a bagel to celebrate this day.

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