Ever wondered what the story is behind Hot Cross Buns… Well I have and this is what I found out.
From what I’ve been taught, the Christian symbolism can be described as follows – You have the bread, as per the communion, you have the spices that represent the spices Jesus was wrapped in the tomb, and you have the cross, which represents the cross Jesus was crucified on.
If you Google the term and you’ll find a plethora of theories – that they go back to Roman times, that they are a Saxon thing, and even that they are a pagan rather than Christian item. You will very often see an article that a 12th Century monk first incised a cross on a bun. Yet another recent theory tied the tradition of the buns to a monk in 14th Century St Albans. Still further references tie them only into the Easter tradition from the Elizabethan era and that the buns were made in London during the 18th Century. But even when you start looking for records or recipes earlier than that, you hit nothing. I even found a picture of a Roman sculpture with a loaf marked with a cross, but that it is probably just to make it breakable into four. Some of the earlier traditions included keeping bread baked on Good Friday to grate and use as medicine in later years. It was believed that the buns would never go mouldy and they were sometimes nailed up in the house as a good luck charm. My favorite, is that it can also cement friendships. Those who share a hot cross bun are supposed to enjoy a strong friendship and bond for the next year. A line from an old rhyme captures this lore “Half for you and half for me, between us two, good luck shall be.”
Whether or not there is a true definitive first baking is still left unanswered, however I now look at the hot cross bun as a surviving fossil of many cultures and customs, besides them also being DELICIOUS to eat.