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Some Long for Lenten Treat After Season Ends

Source: Catholic News Service

WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (CNS)—There are many people in western Massachusetts who wish that Lent would last all year.

It's not that they want more meatless Fridays or days of fasting. They just want their hot cross buns and hot cross doughnuts for more than 40 days.

"Every year, early in January, people start looking for them. We only make them from Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday. So we get the calls because people know it's coming up to the season and they're wondering if we have them. And we tell them the date of Ash Wednesday, whatever it happens to be that year," said Paul Shields, president of Donut Dip in West Springfield.

Donut Dip offers a hot cross doughnut, which is a modification of the traditional hot cross bun.

"They're definitely unique. It's a fried doughnut. They are loaded with raisins, and citrus fruit and cinnamon. They're glazed so they are sweet," he said, of the popular treat. "And they are rich. We make them throughout the night and in the morning so they are always very fresh."

Baker Bennie Dailey turns out the hot cross doughnuts every day. He is assisted by Krista Crawford, who ices each one with a cross. The cross, made of white frosting, finishes off the hot cross doughnut and gives it the signature look.

"We've been making them for the better part of the 53 years we have been here," Shields told The Catholic Observer, diocesan newspaper of Springfield, Mass.

"It goes back to when my grandfather was here. With his background with the bakery business, he wanted to take the hot cross bun and put our own twist on it to make the hot cross doughnut," said Shields.

Paul Shields' father, Richard Shields, said that he's been around hot cross buns and doughnuts most of his life.

"I remember when I was a young child, we had hot cross buns in our house for Lent most every day until Easter," Richard Shields recalled. "Then we got into this business (Donut Dip) and we thought if would be good if we could make a hot cross doughnut."

They have been producing dozens and dozens of them daily during Lent ever since. On St. Patrick's Day they change the color of the cross to green but otherwise they have maintained the same sweet product.

"There are some people who really wish we would continue making them all year and not just during Lent," said Richard.

Tina La Pierre, the bakery manager at Springfield's Big Y grocery store, said requests for their hot cross buns begin early, often during the Christmas season.
She tells customers they have to wait until Lent and then sometimes has to explain to them when Lent begins.

La Pierre said her store sells about 45 packages a day of the cinnamon and raisin buns. The hot cross buns sold by the Big Y grocery chain are baked every morning.
Donut Dip and Big Y are continuing a centuries-old food tradition. Although hot cross buns have been around for a very long time, the history about their origin varies.
According to the "Oxford Companion to Food," buns with marks on them were offered to the gods since the time of the Egyptians: "The Greeks and Romans had similar practice and the Saxons ate buns marked with a cross in honor of the goddess of light, Eostre."

It also notes that hot cross buns baked on Good Friday never went moldy and were kept from one year to the next.

The "Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs" notes that hot cross buns originated at St. Alban's Abbey in Hertfordshire, England, in 1361. It is thought that a cross was cut into the first buns and the frosting was added in more modern times.

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, hot cross buns were reportedly banned because they were seen as a sign of "popery." However, the buns remained popular so a law was passed that limited their production to religious feasts and ceremonies.

It should last all year considering how the world is.