The Interesting Story of the Hot Cross Bun — RavenHook Bakehouse (2024)

Hot Cross Buns! Hot Cross Buns! One and penny, two a penny, Hot Cross Buns! If you haven’t got a daughter, give them to your sons. One a penny, two a penny Hot Cross Buns!

Excerpted from The Bread Baker’s Guild “Breadlines”

By Mitch Stamm and Kate Goodpaster

Nations, cultures, and religions include bread as an integral component of religious and secular observances. The breads are typically enriched and may contain dairy, eggs, sweeteners, and inclusions. Hot cross buns have been synonymous with Easter celebrations since they appeared in 12th century England. Interestingly, hot cross buns pre-date Christianity, with their origins in paganism. Ancient Egyptians used small round breads topped with crosses to celebrate the gods. The cross divided the bread into four equal sections, representing the four phases of the moon and/or the four seasons, depending on the occasion. Later, Greeks and Romans offered similar sweetened rolls in tribute to Eos, the goddess of the morning, and to Eostre, the goddess of light, who lent her name to the Easter observances. The cross on top symbolized the horns of a sacrificial ox. The English word bun is a derivation of the Greek word for ceremonial cakes and breads, boun.

In the Middle Ages, home bakers marked their loaves with crosses before baking. They believed the cross would ensure a successful bake, warding off the evil spirits that inhibit the bread from rising. This superstition gradually faded, except for marking Good Friday loaves and hot cross buns, only to be replaced by another one. This time the loaves and buns were hung from the ceiling like sausages. It was believed that the bread would never mold and would provide protection against evil spirits and illness until the following Good Friday when the loaves and buns would be replaced. In the event of illness, a portion of bread could be removed from its string and crushed to a powder, which was incorporated into water for therapeutic effect. During the same period, Jews hung bread and a container of water from the ceiling to ward off cholera. They believed its power was so strong that one loaf in one house would protect the community. To avoid detection, early Christians celebrated the resurrection of Christ at the same time of year as the pagan Spring celebration.

It was in the 12th century that an English monk decorated his freshly baked buns with a cross on Good Friday, also known as the Day of the Cross. The custom gained traction, and over the years, fruits and precious spices were included to represent health and prosperity. Spiced buns were banned when the English broke ties with the Catholic Church in the 16th century. However, by 1592, Queen Elizabeth I relented and granted permission for commercial bakers to produce the buns for funerals, Christmas, and Easter. Otherwise, they could be baked in homes. The bakers argued that a cross cut into a loaf or bun induced a more pronounced rise in the oven: an axiom then, and an axiom now.

Farmers began to place hot cross buns in their stored grain to distract mice and other pests, much the way shoofly pie was used by American housewives. By the early 19th century, the Bun House of Chelsea, famous for Chelsea buns, was the largest producer of hot cross buns. It remained so for over a century until the building was demolished. Once an English specialty, the buns’ popularity has become a seasonal staple around the world and is included in Le Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie as one of the Breads of the World. ✹

“One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns! If you’ve no daughters, give them to your sons, And if you’ve no kind of pretty little elves, Why then good faith, e’en eat them all yourselves”

“One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns! Butter them and sugar them and put them in your muns (i.e. mouths). Hot cross buns, hot cross buns! One a penny poker, two a penny tongs, three a penny fire shovel, Hot cross buns!” (lyrics source: Wikipedia 2021)

The Interesting Story of the Hot Cross Bun — RavenHook Bakehouse (2024)


What's the story behind hot cross buns? ›

The Greeks in the 6th century AD may have marked cakes with a cross. In the Christian tradition, the making of buns with a cross on them and consuming them after breaking the fast on Good Friday, along with "crying about 'Hot cross buns'", is done in order to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus.

Why were hot cross buns banned? ›

Traditionally eaten on Good Friday to commemorate the Crucifixion, hot cross buns found an enemy in Elizabeth I, who, in 1592, finding too much Popery in their popularity, banned their consumption except on specific holidays.

What is the spiritual meaning of hot cross buns? ›

They are symbolic of this significant day in the Christian faith when Jesus was crucified. Each bun is decorated with a cross made from flour paste, which represents the cross on which Christ died. The spices in hot cross buns are said to represent the spices that were used to embalm Christ after his death.

What is a fun fact about hot cross buns? ›

Hot Cross Buns believed they originated in the 14th century when a monk distributed buns to the poor on Good Friday in England, United Kingdom. Another says the buns honour Eostre, the Germanic goddess of spring, and became associated with Easter.

What is the pagan history of hot cross buns? ›

Pagans worshipped Eostre, the goddess of dawn and spring. As spring arrived, the pagans would celebrate a month long festival of the transitioning time from winter entering into spring. This festival saw the Saxons making buns marked with a cross, which represented the four phases of the moon, to offer to the goddess.

What a hot cross bun is and why it is eaten at Easter? ›

Hot cross buns became commemorations of Good Friday, and across Christendom the cross came to represent the crucifixion and the spices symbolised those used to embalm Jesus at his burial. The bun had been blessed.

Should Christians eat hot cross buns? ›

To those practicing their faith today, a bite from a hot cross bun on Good Friday can still be an act laden with religious significance. The bread is a nod to the Communion wafer, the spices represent the spices Christ was wrapped in in his tomb and the cross is of course a reference to his crucifixion.

How unhealthy are hot cross buns? ›

Hot cross buns are made from refined white flour, so there is no good news there. The protective qualities of grains in terms of reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and colon cancer have only been found for the regular consumption of whole grains.

Why can't dogs eat hot cross buns? ›

Hot cross buns and dogs

Hot cross buns which contain dried fruit, such as currants, sultanas and raisins, are all toxic to dogs. Even if your dog eats a small quantity of these dried fruits (and grapes), they can suffer severe kidney failure which may be fatal.

Why do they put crosses on hot cross buns? ›

Hot cross buns go back as far as the 12th century. Supposedly, an Anglican monk baked the bun and marked them with a cross as a representation for Good Friday. These became popular over the years and are now popular to eat around Easter weekend.

Why do people like hot cross buns? ›

Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten over the Easter religious Christian holiday to symbolise the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday on the cross.

What is the background of a hot cross bun? ›

Interestingly, hot cross buns pre-date Christianity, with their origins in paganism. Ancient Egyptians used small round breads topped with crosses to celebrate the gods. The cross divided the bread into four equal sections, representing the four phases of the moon and/or the four seasons, depending on the occasion.

Do French people eat hot cross buns? ›

3. The French don't do hot cross buns. Toasted spiced buns studded with juicy raisins and oozing with butter, hot cross buns are an Easter treat that can be enjoyed in the weeks running up til Easter. But not in France.

Do hot cross buns expire? ›

Store homemade hot cross buns in an airtight container in the pantry for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months. If freezing, wrap hot cross buns individually in baking paper, so you can remove and thaw the portions you require.

Why did we have to learn hot cross buns? ›

By the 18th century, hot cross buns were explicitly associated with Good Friday, a key date in the Christian calendar that commemorates the crucifixion of Christ before his miraculous resurrection on Easter Sunday.

What makes the cross in hot cross buns? ›

Traditionally, the cross decorating the buns was made from a simple paste of flour and water. Over time the cross has changed and some bakers mark their buns with a sweet frosting called fondant, which is similar to the icing used to top a cinnamon roll.

Did they take the cross off hot cross buns? ›

David Lennox, the head of development for Iceland Foods, told The Sun: “According to the research, it seems some people want to do away with the cross design and move to a tick instead. “The results surprised us, but in true British fashion, we're putting it to the test by trialling ticks on some of our buns.”

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