Bagels were once given as gifts to women after childbirth.
Source: Original photo by Mae Mu/ Unsplash
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Bagels were once given as gifts to women after childbirth.

After a woman has had a bun in the oven for nine months, presenting her with a bagel might seem like a strange choice. But some of the earliest writings on bagels relate to the idea of giving them as gifts to women after labor. Many historians believe that bagels were invented in the Jewish community of Krakow, Poland, during the early 17th century. Their circular shape echoes the round challah bread eaten on the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah. Enjoying round challahs is meant to bring good luck, expressing the hope that endless blessings — goodness without end — will arrive in the coming year. Likewise, in Krakow centuries ago, a bagel signified the circle of life and longevity for the child. 

The hole in the center of a bagel has no purpose.
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Incorrect.
It's a Fib
Holes give bagels more surface area, decreasing the boiling and baking time and increasing the likelihood that they will emerge from the oven fully cooked. Also, the holes allow bagels to be stacked on wooden dowels, making them easier for street vendors to transport and sell.

Community records in Krakow advised that bagels could be bestowed on both expectant and new moms. They were also regarded as a thoughtful gift for midwives. In addition to the symbolism of the round shape, the bread was believed to bring a pregnant woman or midwife good fortune in a delivery by casting aside evil spirits. Some pregnant women even wore bagels on necklaces as protection, or ensured bagels were present in the room where they gave birth. As babies grew out of their newborn phases and started teething, mothers were also known to let their little ones gnaw on bagels. Today, of course, bagels are often enjoyed throughout the life cycle. More than 202 million Americans ate bagels in 2020, and in flavors (like rainbow, apple pie, jalapeño cheddar) that would have dazzled the residents back in 17th-century Krakow. 

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Numbers Don’t Lie
Price of possibly the costliest bagel ever, a truffle-topped treat sold at NYC's Westin Hotel
$1,000
2022 revenue of U.S. bagel stores
$1.4 billion
Year Montreal-born Greg Chamitoff became the first astronaut to bring a bagel into space
2008
Weight, in pounds, of the largest bagel ever (made by Bruegger’s Bagels for the 2004 New York State Fair)
868
On “Seinfeld,” _______ was fired from his job at H&H Bagels for getting gum in the bagel dough.
On “Seinfeld,” Kramer was fired from his job at H&H Bagels for getting gum in the bagel dough.
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Think Twice
The NCAA used to have a rule that prevented schools from providing cream cheese to bagel-eating Division I athletes.

Currently, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rulebook is 451 pages long, but one persnickety bylaw was dropped several years ago. From 2009 to 2014, in exchange for representing their schools in Division I sports, athletes receiving full scholarships were also typically given three free meals per day, plus whatever fruit, nuts, and bagels they wanted as snacks. Yet if any kind of topping was added to a bagel — including cream cheese, jelly, peanut butter, or butter — the item was recognized as an extra meal, which the athlete would have to pay for out of pocket. Ending the “Bagel Rule,” however, did little to address the fact that some Division I athletes still didn’t feel like they were being served enough food to maintain their body weights. In April 2014, immediately after the UConn Huskies defeated the Kentucky Wildcats in the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship, UConn’s NBA-bound Shabazz Napier — who was named the tournament’s most outstanding playertold reporters, “There are hungry nights when I go to bed and I’m starving.” Later that month, the NCAA announced plans to discard all meal and snack restrictions on Division I athletes.  

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