Hot Cross Buns were traditionally served during the Lenten Season, especially on Good Friday. Their origins, however, like the Easter holiday, are a mix of pagan and Christian traditions.
The Saxons worshipped Eostre, from which we get our word “Easter” as the goddess of dawn and spring. At the arrival of spring they celebrated a month-long festival in celebration of the transition from Winter to Spring. During this festival the Saxons made buns to offer the goddess. They marked the buns with a simple cross, to represent the four phases of the moon.
When the Christians gained a firm foothold in Britain, their leaders banned the pagan Easter rites. But they soon discovered it was more effective to give them Christian symbolism rather than outright eliminate them. In 782 AD, They found a way to reinterpret some of the Pagan Easter rites into the Christian ones held at this same time of year. The meaning of the cross on the buns was reinterpreted to signify the Cross upon which Christ was crucified.
The Christian Easter Tradition
Some historians date the origin of “Hot Cross Buns” as an Easter Tradition back to the 12th century. In 1361, an Anglican monk named Father Thomas Rocliffe, was recorded to have made small spiced cakes stamped with the sign of the cross, to be distributed to the poor visiting the monastery at St. Albans on Good Friday, known at that time as the “Day of the Cross.”. According to the scholar Harrowven, the idea proved so popular that he made the buns every year, carefully keeping his bun recipe secret. Traditional hot cross buns contain flour, milk, sugar, butter, eggs, currants and spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. The cross on the top may be cut into the bun or made out of pastry strips. In America, the cross is often fashioned out of icing. According to tradition, “Hot Cross Buns” were the only food allowed to be eaten by the faithful on Good Friday. They were made from dough that had been kneaded for consecrated bread used at Mass or Holy Communion, and thus represented Christ’s body.
Serve Hot Cross Buns to your Children and youth. While it is important to be aware of the pagan origins, for most people today, the pagan origins have been lost and most people now associate “Hot Cross Buns” with Good Friday and Easter. Keep your focus on the Christian Tradition: they were originally made by monks from Dough that had been consecrated for Mass to represent Christ’s body. The cross represented the “day of the cross” which was the way they referred to Good Friday at the time. It represented the day that Christ died on the cross for our sins.
Games and Activities in celebration of Easter.
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