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From: Corinne Thompson <>
Subject: Hot Cross Buns
Date: Thu, 24 Mar 2005 07:55:13 +1100
In-Reply-To: <005f01c52fc6$aa27eae0$>

Hello Jan,

No, "Hot Cross Buns" are not Cornish in origin. It is much more likely that
the custom was introduced into Cornwall by the Saxons.

Because ...... as with most Easter traditions ...... the origin of hot cross
buns has little to do with Christianity.

Indeed the earliest recordings of small cakes being baked to mark the
beginning of Spring was in ancient cultures such as the Assyrians,
Babylonians and Egyptians.

Cakes marked with a curved shape representing the horns of an ox, the animal
associated with the moon, were offered to Ishtar, or Hathor, the goddess
connected with fertility and renewal.

The Greeks and Romans also made cakes for their moon goddesses ...... again
marking them with ox horns. It is thought that the Greek word for ox,
"boun", may have given us our word "bun".

Eventually variations of these little buns to celebrate the start of Spring
appeared throughout Europe and may even have been brought to Britain by the
Romans ...... but it was certainly a custom practised by the Saxons.

The Saxons worshipped Eostre, the goddess of dawn and spring, the word
deriving from the Norse "eostur" meaning the season of the growing sun.

It was Eostre who gave her name to Easter, the celebration of spring, and it
was during this time of the year that the Saxons made buns to offer the

The buns were marked with a cross rather than ox horns, but initially ......
at least ...... the cross did not have anything to do with the resurrection
of Christ.

The pagan cross, used to represent the four phases of the moon, was the
symbol of choice for the Saxons.

As Christianity gained a foothold in Britain all pagan Easter rituals were
banned ...... without much success ...... and eventually many of the old
rites became incorporated into the new religion. So the buns took on a
different meaning, thanks to the cross echoing the traditional Christian
cross and their pagan origins slowly slid into obscurity.

On Good Friday in 1361 it is recorded that small spiced cakes, marked with a
cross, were distributed by Father Thomas Rockliffe to the poor of St Albans.

Another story about the origin of hot cross buns dates back to the 12th
century, when an Angelican monk was said to have placed the sign of the
cross on the buns, to honour Good Friday, a Christian holiday also known as
the Day of the Cross.

Hot cross buns were traditionally eaten at breakfast time. They were once
sold by street vendors who sang a little song about them: "Hot cross buns,
Hot cross buns, One a penny, two a penny, Hot cross buns."

Apart from the tradition of baking and eating hot cross buns on Good Friday
here are some other uses:

You might not think to hang a hot cross bun in your home to keep evil away,
but this is what people used to do, thinking the little cakes had miraculous

Hot cross buns were also bizarrely used in powdered form to treat all types
of illnesses.

A bun baked on Good Friday and left to get hard could be grated up and put
in some warm milk and this was supposed to stop an upset tummy.

Another belief was that hot cross buns baked on Good Friday would never go
mouldy - although this was probably because the buns were baked so hard that
there was no moisture left in the mixture for the mould to live on!

Kindest Regards ...... Corinne in Melbourne, Australia.

> Good Morning from rainy San Diego, California -
> I am curious about the history of Hot Cross Buns. I always thought they were a
> Cornish thing, as my grandfather, Earl Rickard, whose father came from
> Camborne, made the every Easter, But I read in our newspaper's food section
> today that they are a "Christian" Easter food, which would make it not
> necessarily Cornish. Does somebody know about this?
> Thanks!
> Jan Davis

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