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Consider the hot cross bun

By Oliver Thring

The OED’s first reference to HCBs dates to 1733 and the familiar nursery rhyme, but the buns are far older than that. The Ancient Greeks baked small loaves to mark the spring, and even the Egyptians offered breads marked with the image of ox horns to their goddess of the moon. When archaeologists excavated the Roman city of Herculaneum – buried by the same explosion that preserved Pompei – they found two small, carbonised loaves among the ruins, each marked with a cross. The pagan Saxons baked breads slashed with crosses to honour Eostre, their goddess of spring and fertility and the source of our word Easter. The four sections symbolised the four quarters of the moon, or the seasons, or something else.

The truth is that the cross is such a common, ancient sign it can represent almost anything. And since one can yoke so many meanings to the symbol, breads decorated with it have developed an exceptional number of superstitions and legends. It was popularly believed that a bun baked on Good Friday would never go mouldy, that if it was hung in the kitchen it would improve a cook’s baking and prevent fires from breaking out, and that if you stashed a bun in a heap of corn it would keep the rats and weevils away. One Lincolnshire family has apparently kept a hot cross bun in a box since 1821.

Read the original article at: The Guardian

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