Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Traditions: Hot Cross Buns…the devil’s bane

This simple kids treat has been for centuries a European staple on Good Friday. [1] You remember Hot Cross Buns…that sweet, spiced dough with a sugar icing shaped in the form of a cross.  In Europe, these were commonly distributed to the poor and were even considered a blessing against sickness and house fires.”[2] Some areas distributed them on Fat Tuesday as a last “Hoorah” before Ash Wednesday.  Remember the simple modern verse:

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!
[3]

Another tradition states that the buns were made of the same dough used for altar hosts and marked, as is our tradition, with the cross.  Legend has it that they remained mold-resistant for twelve months:

Good Friday comes this month: the old woman runs With one-a-penny, two-a-penny, Hot cross buns.  Whose virtue is, if you believe what’s said, They’ll not grow like the common bread.

This legendary characteristic and association with the Church, “some believed this humble bun qualified as a charm against evil, and it was superstitiously hung in the house.”[4]


[1] Klein, Rev. Peter, The Catholic Source Book (Harcourt Religion Publishers, 2000) p. 459

[2] Ibid.

[3] I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), p. 197.

[4] Klein, Rev. Peter, The Catholic Source Book (Harcourt Religion Publishers, 2000) p. 459

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