Hot cross buns are an annual tradition for Easter time. Many Christians, particularly in England, eat these baked yeast buns for breakfast on Good Friday. Others save these criss-crossed treats for Easter Sunday, especially if they have given up breads or sweets for the season of Lent. The X-like marking on each sweetly spiced roll is usually made with knife slits before baking and accentuated with icing afterwards. Sometimes the top cross is formed from strips of pastry.
Consider these possible explanations for including hot cross buns importance on the Easter menu.
Celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, Easter is a movable Christian feast, occurring on the first Sunday after the first full moon past the spring equinox. It is also widely regarded as a sure sign of spring (although spring officially arrives with that equinox).
1. Hot cross buns preceded the spread of Christianity in Europe.
In pre-Christian times, pagan practices included criss-crossed circular cakes at the spring festival honoring Eostre, the goddess of fertility. The top design may have resembled the moon’s four quarters.
2. To Christians, the cross on each bun represents the one on which Jesus was crucified.
Like the crosses that adorn churches around the world, the emblem atop each hot cross bun is widely seen as a remembrance of the Messiah’s sacrifice at Calvary (see Matthew 27:32-56, Mark 15:24-32, Luke 23:26-43, John 19:16-27).
3. Historically, people have seen hot cross buns as lucky.
Bakers would stash them away to ward off fires and hasten successful baking. Sailors would pack them along for journeys to prevent shipwrecks. Others have considered the breaking and sharing of hot cross buns as a sign of enduring friendship for the coming year.
4. In many a home, superstitious people bake hot cross buns on Good Friday and hang one up for a year, hoping it will make bad luck roll away.
According to this tradition, a hot cross bun dangled among the kitchen rafters in a home would not decay for a whole year. This was seen to reflect the body of Christ, which did not decay during His three days in the tomb (see Acts 13:37).
5. Bakers often include a dozen raisins or currents on each bun to stand for Jesus’ 12 apostles.
This makes a handy Bible lesson for Sunday school, homeschooling, or anywhere hot cross buns are served. Children can count out the raisins and practice naming the 12 apostles of Christ (see Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:16-18, and Luke 6:13-16).
Over the past few centuries, hot cross buns (which may also be called Good Friday) have become a hallmark of the Easter season in many countries. Unlike the popular nursery rhyme, these seasonal sweet pastries tend to cost more than a penny or two apiece.