Spring time offers foods which are rich in history and symbolism. These foods can be broken down into three groups: 1. Food specifically related to Christ, such as ( lamb, for “the lamb of God.”) Easter was the time to start eating the season’s new lamb. 2. Food related to pagan rites of spring (eggs for re-birth) (ham for luck), (lamb for sacrifice) and (cake/bread for fertility) 3. Modern foods such as candy and the Easter basket.
Eggs are traditionally connected with re-birth, rejuvenation and immortality. This is why they are celebrated at Easter. In the early Christian times eggs were forbidden during Lent, so this made them bountiful and exciting, forty days later. They were dyed or decorated in bright colors to honor this celebration. Red eggs brought to the table on Easter Sunday symbolized life, and were given as emblems of friendship. Eggs with the pattern “XV” etched on them stood for “Christ is Risen”, a traditional Easter greeting. We hunt for eggs during an Easter Egg Hunt to identify with riches. Eggs were a treasure, a bounty of nature, and the treasures were deposited by hens in unsuspecting places. To find such a hidden nest was equal to finding a hidden treasure.
The word “Easter” came from the name for the anglo saxon goddess of light and spring, Eostre. Special dishes were cooked in her honor so that the year would bring fertility. Most important of these dishes was a tiny cake or small spiced bun. The association of protection and fertility, birth and re-birth, became a Christian tradition, especially in English society. During Tudor times, the English custom of eating spiced buns on Good Friday was established when a London by-law was introduced forbidding the sale of such buns except on Good Friday, Christmas and burials. Issued in 1592, the thirty-six year of Queen Elizabeth I, by the London Clerk of Markets the proclamation read: That no bakers at any time or time hereafter make, utter or sell by retail, within or without their houses, unto any of the Queen’s subjects any spice cakes, buns, biscuits or other spice bread except at burials or on the Friday before Easter or at Christmas, upon pain of death or forfeiture of all such spiced bread to the poor. A cross was etched or decorated on the bun to represent Christ’s Cross. “One-a-penny, two-a penny, hot cross buns”, was the call of the day. Superstitions regarding bread that was baked on Good Friday date back to a very early period. In England particularly, people believed that bread baked on this day could be hardened in the oven and kept all year to protect the house from fire. Sailors took loaves of it on their voyages to prevent shipwreck and a Good Friday loaf buried in a heap of corn kept away rats, mice and weevils. They also hung hot cross buns in the house on Good Friday to protect them from bad luck during the year and finely grated bread, mixed with water was sometimes used as medicine.
Bath buns, hot cross buns, spice buns, penny buns, Chelsea buns, ( hot cross buns sold in great quantity by the Chelsea Bun House in the 18th century) and currant buns; all small, plump, sweet, fermented cakes that are English institutions! Join me today as I bake my hot cross buns! To enjoy this recipe too see, Hot Cross Buns on the King Arthur Webpage ! My favorite place for baking needs! Happy Easter!