We have made Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday for many, many years. Even though I’ve never learned how to make a pie crust, I’ve always been really successful with yeast breads.
Having grown up with very few family traditions, one of my priorities with my own children was to establish a few traditions, especially surrounding the holidays. Easter is such an important event in the life of a Christian family, so we have always tried to find ways to celebrate in ways that were meaningful for children, at various ages and stages of life.
Discovering the history of different Christian traditions has always been of interest to me (as is the history of lots of different times, places, and people!), so I was rather surprised when I started reading about the history of Hot Cross Buns to discover that there are several myths surrounding this traditional Easter bread, and limited historical evidence for the beginnings of this holiday tradition.
“Hot Cross buns have quite a history behind them; the idea of marking crosses on baked goods such as bread, cakes and buns goes right back to pre-Medieval times and was a visible sign that the bread was “blessed” and had the power to ward off evil spirits, as well as help with the longevity of the bread by stopping it going moldy or becoming stale so quickly. A cross marked on the dough was also believed to help the bread to rise.
The first buns with crosses that were attributed to the festival of Easter came along a little later however, as Kate Colquhoun states in her excellent book “Taste: The Story Of Britain Through Its Cooking“……….“In honour of Eastre, goddess of spring and the dawn, [Anglo-Saxon] bread dough could be studded with dried fruits and baked into small loaves that, as Christianity spread, began to be marked with a cross by monks: the earliest form of hot-cross bun”.
It can be said that these were the earliest examples of what we know to be Hot Cross Buns today, and from the late 1600’s onward the custom grew that special spices buns known as “Good Friday Buns” were to be marked with a cross and were to be eaten for breakfast on Good Friday.
Although the name for Hot Cross Buns was commonly known as Good Friday Buns for nearly a hundred years, during the 1730’s the buns were starting to be sold on the streets, and therein the name as well as the popular rhyme emerged, as the sellers would shout out ” One-a-penny, two-a-penny, hot-cross buns “………..a penny for a larger bun or for two smaller ones. This tradition was still in practice as little as eighty years ago, as my dad can remember the Hot Cross Bun sellers coming around the streets to sell them on Good Friday. ” ~from Lavender and Lovage
We’ll be making our Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday, along with a few other Easter traditional activities. What will you be doing with your family to celebrate our risen Lord and Savior?
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