Hot Cross Buns are a traditional English roll eaten on Good Friday, a day which remembers the Crucifixion of Christ. While the cross on the top of the bun is regarded as a symbol for the Crucifixion in our modern times, it is believed that these delicious sweet breads existed long before Christianity came to England. Believed to be a bread popular with the Saxons, they were prepared and eaten in honor of the goddess Eostre.

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Regardless of it’s origin, these tasty rolls, marked by a cross and dotted with dried pieces of fruit, have been popular symbols of the Crucifixion for centuries. 

There was a time when they were eaten all throughout the year. In fact, they were such a popular symbol of Catholicism that Good Queen Bess (Elizabeth I), in an attempt to control the Catholic hold on England in the 1500s, made their sale illegal on any day except Easter, Christmas, and for burials.

A number of superstitions surround hot cross buns, including a belief that they will not spoil if baked or served on Good Friday. Other traditions hold that they will protect against shipwreck, that keeping one on your hearth will protect you from fire and having a hot cross bun (or two) in your kitchen will ensure that all your breads bake perfectly. My favorite is the belief that sharing one with a friend while saying “Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be” will guarantee good friendship for the coming year.

So, this Good Friday, enjoy a hot cross bun with a friend, and maybe even recite the rhyme as you do:

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!

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