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Undermining The Hot Cross Bun Tradition

by | Fri, Mar 29 2024

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Supermarkets have been gradually undermining the Good Friday tradition of having hot cross buns for breakfast in memory of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

First they dabbled with tampering with the traditional recipe and added chocolate chips, salted caramel, fudge, raspberries and even Vegemite to the spicy bun. They then rushed to get them on the shelves right after Christmas, hoping they’d be scoffed down throughout Lent. And this year the ultimate sacrilege: British supermarket chain Iceland has replaced the cross with a tick.

But it seems only a relatively small sample of ‘tick’ buns has been produced and the ‘tick’ was just a clever marketing ploy. After the concept was greeted with outrage, Executive Chairman of Iceland Foods Richard Walker claimed the widespread criticism of the ‘tick buns’ gave a huge boost to sales of the traditional buns.

They weren’t for real btw lads — and sales of our devout and trad hot cross buns were up 134% yesterday he posted on social media. “Despite these being a limited run, it will be interesting to see if the British public take a liking to buttering their ticked buns. However, we’d of course never get rid of the original and much-loved Easter staple!” Iceland declared,

On a more reflective note, Simon Calvert, deputy director of The Christian Institute avowed: “The glorious truth behind the celebration of Easter is that Christ died on the cross for sins and then rose from the dead to conquer death. Christians will continue to proclaim this marvellous good news regardless of what Iceland puts on its buns. My advice this Easter is: Instead of buying hot cross buns, go to church.

It’s most likely the tradition of eating buns with crosses dates back to pagans who lived centuries before Christ. They were baked by Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians and Druids and often marked with lines to denote the four phases of the moon. It’s also claimed that the Saxons baked ‘cross buns’ to celebrate the spring equinox and honour Eostre – the Germanic goddess of fertility, springtime and light after whom Easter is named.

14th-century monk Brother Thomas Rocliffe from St Albans Cathedral is widely credited as making the very first hot cross bun known as the Alban bun in 1361. Some say the buns were baked simply to give as alms to the poor. Others say Brother Thomas had a vision that if he marked each bun with a cross, no one in his monastery would ever die from the plague again.

Thus, the cross shape was seen as a sign of protection and blessing. The Alban bun features the cross cut into the top of the bun with a knife. Its modern successor has the cross piped on with flour paste. Both buns include flour, eggs, yeast, currants and spices, although today’s recipe often includes butter, sugar, milk and fruit zest.

Spiced buns were temporarily banned when the English broke ties with the Catholic Church in the 16th century. People who disobeyed this law could be punished and sent to prison. Queen Elizabeth I then ruled they could be commercially baked, but only eaten on Good Friday and perhaps at Christmas and burials. They were considered sacred and confiscated from anyone caught baking them at home and then given to the poor.