In many historically Christian countries, buns are traditionally eaten hot or toasted during Lent, beginning with the evening of Shrove Tuesday (the evening before Ash Wednesday) to Good Friday, with the cross standing as a symbol of the Crucifixion.The ancient Greeks may have marked cakes with a cross. In the times of Elizabeth I of England (1592), the London Clerk of Markets issued a decree forbidding the sale of hot cross buns and other spiced breads, except at burials, on Good Friday, or at Christmas. The punishment for transgressing the decree was forfeiture of all the forbidden product to the poor. As a result of this decree, hot cross buns at the time were primarily made in home kitchens. Further attempts to suppress the sale of these items took place during the reign of James I of England/James VI of Scotland (1603-1625).
English folklore includes many superstitions surrounding hot cross buns. One of them says that buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil or mold during the
subsequent year. Another encourages keeping such a bun for medicinal purposes. A piece of it given to someone who is ill is said to help them recover. Sharing a hot cross bun with another is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if “Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be” is said at the time. Because there is across on the buns, some say they should be kissed before being eaten. If taken on a sea voyage, hot cross buns are said to protect against shipwreck. If hung in the kitchen, they are said to protect against fires and ensure that all breads turn out perfectly. The hanging bun is replaced each year.
In the UK, the major supermarkets produce variations on the traditional recipe such as toffee, orange and cranberry, and apple and cinnamon.
In Australia and New Zeland, a chocolate version of the bun has become popular; there are also coffee flavoured buns sold in some Australian bakeries.
They generally contain the same mixture of spices, but chocolate chips are used instead of currants.In the Czech Republic, mazanec is a similar cake
or sweet bread eaten at Easter time. It often has a cross marked on top.