Hot Cross Buns
“Do you know what hot cross buns are?” I asked Josh as he made coffee on Friday morning.
“They don’t seem like something good to eat right now,” he pointed out. In addition to being Good Friday, it was also the Jewish holiday of Pesach.
“No, I just meant, do you know what they are?”
“They’re a pastry that doesn’t have a set price. Sometimes you get them for one penny, but sometimes you need to pay two. No, Melissa, I have no idea what they are. I think they’re rolls with some sort of cross on them.”
I’m reading the Husband’s Secret, and Easter weekend in real life has lined up with Easter weekend in the book. That rarely happens; that you’re reading a book and the characters are living the same day that you’re living. All the characters in the book are incessantly talking about hot cross buns. It’s a multitude of individual stories coming together, and each character has their own discussion about hot cross buns. And then I went to read blogs this weekend, and real humans were mentioning eating hot cross buns. This food that I’ve never seen or eaten was suddenly everywhere.
“Do you think they’re sort of bad and something people just endure? Because if you have no neighbours to pawn them off on, you give them to your sons.”
Josh filled up the coffee carafe with water and paused. “I think it’s daughters. If you have no daughters, give them to your sons.”
“Oh. I thought it was neighbours. If you have no neighbours, give them to your sons. Daughters makes more sense.* Well, that rhyme now depresses me.”
Who wants to chirp on about having no daughters on Easter? I went upstairs and Googled the words of the rhyme:
Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny – Hot cross buns
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons
One a penny, two a penny – Hot cross buns
Josh was correct. I also learned that the rhyme was essentially a 19th century commercial. Street vendors would stand on the corner, hawking their hot cross buns to women walking past them to do the shopping. And they would sing out rhymes like this to get them to buy their buns.
So even in the 1800s, people found it completely within the confines of polite conversation to comment on your family building. Don’t have a daughter to eat these buns? Then surely you have a son you can shove them into? No? Well, why haven’t you had children yet? When are you going to have children?
As much as I understand that Christmas is a difficult holiday when you are encountering infertility, as someone who has only experienced a more closely aligned symbolic-laden holiday in spring,** I’ve always found the theme of babies much harder to sit with than the inclusion of babies or the discussion of a particular baby. In the same way that certain babies don’t phase me, but sitting at a party, surrounded by women holding random babies does. And Easter (and Pesach) are both about birth and babies and the renewal of life. Eggs play a large role in the celebration of both holidays. Freakin’ eggs. They’re not even tucking away the imagery in something innocuous like baby animals or pastel colours. They’re sticking the egg front and center. Helps you to remember your own.
So my heart is with you today if you’re struggling with Easter.
So rather than focus on the egg hunt and the pretty pastel dresses while you are in church or at Easter brunch, consider — seriously — why the vendors couldn’t settle on a single price for their buns. Were they one for a penny? Two for a penny? Did you have a choice how much you paid? Were they one penny at the beginning of the day, and two as you got closer to the end of the day when the unsold wares would have to be turned over to the dogs anyway? Use this thought as an anchor when you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed.
And know there are a bunch of us, only one email or so away, who have your back.
* I’d like to apologize to the twins for teaching them the wrong words of “if you have no neighbours” when they were little. I feel like I failed you in the nursery rhyme department. I’d also like to apologize in advance to the family as a whole for continuing to sing the song wrong all day since it is now stuck in my head.
** Chanukkah is nothing like Christmas. Chanukkah is a memorial marking a war. Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ. The only thing those two holidays have in common is that they fall near each other on the calendar. But Pesach is part of the Easter story (the Last Supper), and both holidays contain loads of references to birth. In other words, babies feature heavily in both spring holidays.