April 28, 2017
The braided challah, of course, is familiar to Jews worldwide: 3 strand braids, 6 strand, 12 strand, round braided challahs . . . the variations are endless. But the braided variety isn’t the custom in all Jewish communities. Middle Eastern Jewish communities never braided their challahs – in fact, Middle Eastern Challahs traditionally look more like Pita bread! So where did the braided challahs come from? No one really knows! Joshua Trachtenberg, in his book, Jewish Magic and Superstition, claims that Ashkenazic Jews in German lands as early as the 10th century adopted the practice of braiding their ritual loaves from their neighbors who worshipped the goddess/spirit Perchta, or Holda, or Holle. According to Trachtenberg, these German women worshiped the goddess by offering their braided hair! The tradition of the times was braiding loaves of bread, called Perchisbrod, as an acknowledgement of this pagan custom. The Jews of German speaking lands may have embraced this local custom, removing from it any hint of its pagan origins!