Hot Cross Buns have long been a traditional food served on Good Friday though, surprisingly, they were not always associated with Christianity. Some say their origins have pagan roots from old and ancient cultures of the Anglo Saxons, Greeks and Egyptians. Others say they date back to 12th century when an Angelican monk was said to have placed the sign of the cross on the buns to honour the Christian holiday of Day of the Cross, which we know as Good Friday.

From where ever these plump, sweet, spicy buns originate, they are a delicious tradition. In England, these buns first became popular during the opulant period of Tudor banquets, produced from butter enriched yeast dough with the addition of spices and fruits. Queen Elizabeth I passed a law which banned the consumption of these rich delights except during festivals such as Easter, Christmas and funerals: perhaps this is the origin of their association with Good Friday?

Later, Hot Cross Buns were sold by street vendors who advertised their wares with the cries of "Hot Cross Buns!" "Hot Cross Buns!" which later became the nursery rhyme:

Hot Cross Buns!

Hot Cross buns!

One a penny, two a penny,

Hot Cross Buns!

If you have no daughters,

Give them to your sons.

One a penny, two a penny

Hot Cross Buns!

Nowadays, we are able to buy Hot Cross Buns throughout the year from supermarkets though personally, I think this is a shame as it waters down the specific tradition of association. As a child I remember feeling excited when the buns began appearing in the shops - their arrival signifying those longed for chocolate eggs and springtime.

Revive a tradition or you could start a new tradition for your family and bake your own, you will be thrilled by the results. I recommend this Waitrose recipe for Wholemeal Hot Cross Buns and also the current Hot Cross Buns recipe as featured in Waitrose Food Illustrated, March 2008. It produces fabulous results. Serve warm from the oven and to make them extra special try serving with either a cinnamon or lemon butter.