A tasty treat associated with Good Friday, hot cross buns are spiced breads that often have dried or candied fruits inside, marked with crosses on top. While historical accounts vary, some say the buns date back to the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians.

The cross on top comes from the cross-cultural ancient tradition of marking religious offerings of bread. The Saxons ate buns marked with a cross symbolizing the goddess of light, Eostre (from whence Easter later received its name). The Egyptians would mark their round cakes with the sign of an ox’s horns before offering them to the goddess of the moon, and the ancient Greeks and Romans had similar traditions.

The buns themselves are traditionally believed to have a variety of supernatural properties. Those baked on Good Friday were believed by some to never grow moldy, and others even kept the buns as luck charms throughout the year. Some believed the English superstition that the buns could be hardened in the oven and kept to protect the household from fire. Sailors took loaves on their voyages to prevent shipwreck.

Today hot cross buns are typically served at breakfast on the morning of Good Friday. The cross can be piped on with icing, cut into the surface or baked on using a cross made from the dough. In England they are still believed by some to bring protection from bad luck throughout the year.

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