Frivolity,  History

Hot Cross Buns and Easter Eggs

I hope everyone had a Happy Easter (or Passover). I spent the day with the cutest grandson EVER (and the rest of my family).

And we ate hot cross buns and decorated Easter eggs.

1024px-Hot_Cross_Buns_at_Fortnum_&_Mason,_Piccadilly,_April_2010In the UK, hot cross buns are a Good Friday and Easter Sunday tradition, Hot cross buns are a spicy sweet bun baked with currants and raisins and marked with a white frosting cross on the top. Hot Cross buns may have had their origins in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome where sweet and spice breads were a spring tradition. The Anglo-Saxons were said to make cross buns as an offering to their goddess Eostre, the cross meant to symbolize the four phases of the moon and the four seasons of the year. With the rise of Christianity, this pagan custom was continued, but the cross became a religious symbol.

In the 1500s, during the reign of Elizabeth I, the sale of hot cross buns was forbidden except at burials, on Good Friday or at Christmas. If one was caught, the wares were forfeited and given to the poor.

widows_sonThere is a story of a widow whose son, a sailor, asked her to bake him hot cross buns when he returned on Good Friday. He was lost at sea, but every year after that his mother baked a new bun for him and saved them all in a net. After she died, her cottage became a pub called The Widow’s Son where the net filled with buns is on display. A new bun is added every year and sailors gather at the pub to remember the widow and her son.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAAnother UK Easter custom, pace-egging, is a tradition that has existed for hundreds of years. The term pace eggs comes from the Old English Pasch, meaning Passover, but the origin of eggs as part of Easter celebrations may have originated in pagan rituals where eggs were an ancient symbol of new life. Pace eggs were decorated eggs, originally covered in onion skin before boiling giving them a mottled gold appearance, but in later times painted. Decorating eggs goes back to the time of the Crusades.

The eggs not eaten at Easter Sunday breakfast might have been given to bands of performers called Pace Eggers or Jolly Boys who toured the villages and performed a play involving St. George, a battle, and a character called Old Tosspot, as well as others. In the play someone dies and is revived by a comic doctor. The Pace Eggers still perform in some villages today.

2015_eer_hero_test_01Other eggs were used on Easter Monday for egg-rolling, another tradition dating back hundreds of years. Egg rolling is still going strong in the UK and here in Washington, DC at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.

How did you celebrate Easter? Did you have a hot cross bun and easter eggs?

I have a new contest on my website! And, don’t forget, Bound By Duty, is now available for sale.

And speaking of Easter Eggs, there is still time to enter Harlequin’s Easter Egg Hunt Contest, which ends April 8.

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Laurel Hawkes
7 years ago

What fascinating bits of history. I love traditions that enrich. I’d like to visit The Widow’s Son, now. I watched “Passion of the Christ” and “The First Inquiry.” I made butter and enjoyed it on a bakery roll, along with ham and cheese. Dove sold chocolate covered coconut eggs, and I ate too many. They were yummy. 🙂 I visited with family and spent time reading “Bound by Duty,” which will assuredly be finished today! 🙂

Elena Greene
7 years ago

Thanks for all the historical tidbits, Diane.

I decorated Lithuanian-style eggs with my daughter and niece as we do every year. Here’s a picture. The wax wasn’t cooperating but some of them came out pretty well anyway.

ki pha
ki pha
7 years ago

How fascinating! I didn’t even know how different the UK celebration of Passover was from US! It seems more fun there…..

But as for me I didn’t do anything but laundry Easter Sunday. The little niece went off to Florida with the folks so I’m just chilling home on my own till they come back next week. It’s awfully quiet which is strange and welcoming since I haven’t had this peace since the niece was born.

Gail Eastwood
7 years ago

Diane, I looked for hot cross buns in the store, but was too late to get any. 🙁 I like to serve them for Easter breakfast to those in my house who can eat them. Easter is hectic for me because I work in a church office (also sing in the church choir). Very little housecleaning got done, but there was food and a cleared-off table for family to gather around and eat an Easter dinner (traditionally ham). There were also chocolate eggs –Cadbury and Reese’s– because I couldn’t resist getting them!

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