Just three weeks into Lent and some Catholics might be rethinking what they gave up. While the journey may be tough, the end result is well worth the sacrifice. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), “During Lent, we are asked to devote ourselves to seeking the Lord in prayer and reading Scripture, to service by giving alms and to practice self-control through fasting.” 

Father Daniel Merz the Secretariat of Divine Wisdom for USCCB wrote there are several reasons for fasting in the Christian tradition including “saving resources to give to the poor,” self-discipline and showing our dependence on God and not worldly things. When Jesus was fasting in the desert for 40 days and Satan tempted him to make bread from stones, Jesus said, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God’ “(Mt 4:4). 

By the end of the 40 days of Lent, it is not surprising that the faithful end their own fasting with savory treats and sweets. Enter hot cross buns! The bread rolls are marked with a cross or frosted with a cross on top and date several centuries. 

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According to the Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices, “hot cross buns were a Good Friday tradition in medieval England and Ireland.” It’s believed the custom began at St. Alban’s Abbey when monks distributed the cross-marked buns to the poor on Good Friday in place of the ordinary buns. Some traditions claim the spicy buns mark the end of Lent with the cross representing the crucifixion of Jesus and spices in the bun signifying the spices used to embalm him. Sometimes the buns are made with fruit inside them. While its origin might be connected with our faith, hot cross buns have taken on legendary status, evolving into nursery rhymes and songs. In fact, if you have a child, niece or nephew, you’ll recognize the simple tune of “Hot Cross Buns,” as it’s often the first song taught when learning to play an instrument. So the next time you hear the song or phrase, remember its possible Catholic roots and the important event it has come to be associated with, Good Friday.