Why Do We Call Hot Cross Buns "Hot" Even When They Are Cold or Frozen?
Like CulinaryLore on Facebook

Posted on 04 Dec 2013 16:08

Have you ever wondered why the only buns we call hot, even when they are cold, or even frozen dough, are hot cross buns? There is no other bun that is always referred to as hot. It's a bit weird, isn't it?

Well, the video below gives the story of the origin of the hot cross bun. These origins of the buns themselves are quite possibly from Anglo-Saxon traditions. The video goes over that and the possible connection to the Christian holiday Easter, is discussed. It's a controversial subject, I know…I'm just giving you the low-down. But none of that explains how the "hot" part came in, which was a much later development, after the bun crossed over into Christian traditions (if the Pagan connection is true, I'm not saying it is, so don't kill the messenger).

You might like: The Oxford Companion To Food and Drink In America.

Watch the video below to find out how the name of the hot cross bun came about or view it on Youtube: Why Are Hot Cross Buns Called Hot Video

Hot Cross Buns Video Transcript

Have you ever wondered why the only buns we always refer to as "hot" even when they are cold, or even just frozen dough, are "Hot Cross Buns?" It's a fun little story but first, you know, the history, or at least the possible history of the hot cross bun is interesting as well and it will sound like one of those "connections" from the Discovery channel.

Hot cross buns are traditionally baked and served on "God's Friday," which we know as Good Friday. The cross cut into the tops of the buns, obviously, commemorate that day. However, these buns may actually descend from a spicy type of cake that was offered to the Saxon Goddess Eastre, or Eostre, and these were decorated with horns that formed the shape of a cross, representing the four quarters of the lunar cycle. It is said that this Indo-European "dawn Goddess" was worshiped in various forms by the Greeks, Romans, Franks, Anglo-Saxons, and Celts.

Hot cross buns: Why do we call them hot, even when they're not?
Hot cross buns: Why do we call them hot, even when they're not?

So, what your supposed to notice here, of course, is the similarities between the name of the Goddess, Eastre and our Easter. However, it's hotly disputed that this Goddess ever even existed and some say that the English historian Bede, sort of just assumed her existence because the entire month of April was called "Eostur-monath."

Ah, regardless, you see the similarity, ah, between this and Easter. And, since this is a religious debate, of course, nobody can decide, ah, only on the basis of evidence. Others, by the way, have suggested that Easter came out of a Babylonian festival having to do with the Goddess Ishtar, or Eshtar, and that dyed eggs even play into that. But there is not much evidence that this tradition was somehow transmitted from Mesopotamia, ah, throughout Europe and into Britain. Not many people would like to believe that the Christian holiday Easter, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, was evolved from a Pagan festival.

But back to the point of this video, why did cross buns come to be called HOT cross buns? Well, it came about in the early 18th century when street vendors would be out selling the freshly baked buns during the holiday, and they would shout, or sing, a rhyme that went something like this:

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns,
Butter them, and sugar them,
and put them in your muns.

Muns was a slang word for mouth. And the hot part was inserted both because it made the buns obviously more appealing… I mean, if you've been to a baseball games you'll know the vendors don't go around shouting "cold peanuts" or "get your red colds" here…but also, the word hot made the rhythm of the rhyme work. If you try to say the rhyme without the word hot, you'll know what I mean. Another version is given that goes:

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns,
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons.

So, although the hot part was originally just an adjective designed to help sell the buns, it eventually evolved into an integral part of the name, possibly because the rhyme was picked up into general usage. And there you have it. That's how cross buns came to be called hot cross buns.

Instead of Hot Cross Buns, 8 Buns

According to this post at the blog, History of Greek Food, early Christian traditions in Greece included an Easter bun made in the shape of the number eight.

See also Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday?: The Catholic Origin to Just About Everything.

Follow or Subscribe

© 2018 by Eric Troy and CulinaryLore. All Rights Reserved. Please contact for permissions.