While duivekater later became closely associated with Christian holidays, according to J.H. Nannings in his book Brood- en gebaksvormen en hunne beteekenis in de folklore (Schiedam, Interbook International, 1974), the tibia-shaped bread has its origins in the symbolic sacrificial breads of the ancient pagan religion of the area. These breads are remnants of ancient animal sacrifices, which changed to bone offerings in Germanic times, and even later were transformed into bone shaped bread offerings for the dead.
In modern Dutch, the name of this bread seems to translate, rather amusingly, as 'pigeon's hangover', but it's more likely a corruption of 'devil's cake'; -kater could have been taken from kakr, an old Germanic form of the word koek (cake), and duive could be a corruption of deuvels (or 'devil').
Use in folklore and art:
Long before we had loyalty cards, bakers enticed their loyal customers with inviting signage, such as this one: 'Die hier waar haalt, krijgt vrij gist. Een Paaschbrood en op Korstijd een deuvekater.' This loosely translates as 'Shop here to receive free yeast, complimentary Easter bread and, at Christmas, a duivekater.
This festive bread was once so typical, that it was famously painted by Dutch master Jan Steen in at least two of his paintings; The Feast of St. Nicholas(1665) and Baker Oostwaert and his wife(1658).
Bake your own:
Duivekater can be hard to find in shops and bakeries nowadays. Look out for it at tourist shops and culinary museums in the Zaanstreek, or bake it at home, with this simple Duivekater recipe from Het Nederlands Bakboek.