Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One ha' penny, two ha' penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons.
One ha' penny,
Two ha' penny, 
Hot cross buns!

  So goes the nursery rhyme with the earliest record of it in Christmas Box, published in London in 1798. However there is an even earlier reference to "Hot Cross Buns" as a street cry, for example in Poor Robin's Almanack for 1733, though many quibble over the date of their origin most agree that they predate 1733:

"Good Friday comes this month the old woman runs
With one or two penny hot cross buns" 

  Hot cross buns are popular in the days of Tudors, as there are specific mentions of them being allowed to be baked under certain conditions by Elizabeth I in 1592. This is because Protestant English monarch were saw the hot cross buns as a dangerous holdover of Catholic belief's in England being baked in the dough used in making communion wafers. However, maybe the most fascinating mention is in Sue Ellen Thompson's Holiday Symbols and Customs :

  "When archeologists excavated the ancient city of
Herculaneum in southwestern Italy, which had been buried 
volcanic ash and lava since 79 C.E., they found two small 
loaves, each with a cross on it, among the ruins.

Hot cross bun is a sweet spiced bun made with raisins or currants and marked with a cross on top and is traditionally eaten on Good Friday.  

  In many historical Christian countries, buns are usually eaten hot or toasted on Good Friday, with the cross symbolizing the Crucifixion.

  It is believed that buns marked with a cross  were eaten by Saxons in honor of Eostre, Germanic goddess that is the namesake of Easter. The cross is thought to have symbolized the four quarters of the moon. Other claim that the Greeks marked cakes with a cross much earlier.

  In English folklore there are many superstitions regarding the hot cross bun. One of them is that buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil or become moldy during the subsequent year. Another one is to keep a hot cross bun for medicinal purposes. A piece of it is given to someone who is ill and  is said to help them recover.

  Sharing a hot cross bun with another is supposed to be ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if "Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be" is said at that time. Because of the cross on the buns, some say they should be kissed before eaten. If taken on a sea voyage, are said to protect against shipwrecks. If hung in the kitchen, they are said to protect against fires and ensure that all breads turn out perfect. Each year the hanging bun is replaced.


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