The Institute for Christian Formation
Hot Cross Buns

“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!”
Follow us on Facebook to keep up to date with our news and newest resources!
created the original recipe and distributed the St. Alban’s Buns to the poor on Good Friday.  The original recipe called for the cross on the bun’s top to be made with two cuts of a knife, rather than with a drizzling of icing.  And to this day these St. Alban’s Buns are a part of the Holy Week tradition at St. Alban’s Cathedral and Abbey Church.   While the original recipe is a well-kept secret, you can learn more about St. Alban’s Buns here.

Marking various breads and other baked goods with a cross seemed to be a common Christian tradition throughout the centuries in many Christian countries.  During the 1600s the Puritans in England apparently perceived this behavior as very “Catholic” and put an end to this practice.  However, they did permit it at certain times of the year, such as on Good Friday, when the cross symbolized the crucifixion. From the late 1600’s a bun with a cross on it became a Good Friday breakfast tradition in England. (Some traditions also say that the shape of the bun recalls the rock which was rolled to close Jesus’ tomb, but then was found open on Easter morning, and that the spices in the recipe recall the spices used to anoint Jesus’ body as it was prepared for burial.)  Eventually these buns were sold on streets throughout the day on Good Friday, and were called “hot cross buns.” 

Loyola Press has a Hot Cross Bun Family Activity for Lent, complete with a downloadable handout.

There were even superstitions associated with hot cross buns.  For example, if you baked your hot cross buns on Good Friday, supposedly they would not go bad for the entire year!  And sharing your hot cross bun with a friend supposedly guaranteed your friendship throughout the year. These are just two of many superstitions associated with these buns.  Here is one recipe for traditional hot cross buns, and here is another.
Many adults recall learning this nursery rhyme as children, but as children learning to sing this simple song, the history behind hot cross buns may have alluded most youngsters.  Hot cross buns were, and in many cases still are, a Good Friday tradition, especially in England.  It is said that today’s hot cross buns can be traced back to the year 1381 at St. Alban’s Abbey in Hertfordshire in England where a 14th century   monk,   Brother  Thomas   Rocliffe,
So you could bake some traditional hot cross buns this year, or buy them at a bakery or grocery – many stores sell these close to Good Friday, and some sell them throughout Lent.  But no matter whether you purchase one large bun, or two smaller ones, one thing is almost guaranteed – you will pay more than “one a penny, two a penny” for your hot cross buns in the 21st century!