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Bread and Funerals

(As opposed to “bread and circuses,” the phrase coined by the Roman satirist Juvenal and made famous, or infamous, by Napoleon. Just thought I’d throw that out there.)

When it comes to Folklore, it’s difficult in the extreme, if not downright impossible, to nail down the exact origins of an idea, concept, or story. I’m not talking about the aforementioned phrase “bread and circuses.” We know where that one came from. I’m talking about the traditional belief that, if you cut into a loaf of bread and found a hole, it meant that you or someone close to you was going to die. Bummer. Such “holes” in bread are common. They are caused by air bubbles that form in the dough as it cooks. But to somebody in the distant past, they suggested a coffin. Ergo, to find one unexpectedly meant that somebody was about to purchase the proverbial farm.

Another bread-related bit of Folklore stated that the Devil would sit on bread to keep it from rising. This is essentially the same concept as the fear that witches could curdle milk still in the churn or cause crops not to grow. This led cooks to paint a cross on the tops of their bread with butter or some other condiment or to carve a cross into the dough. I wonder if this was the true origin of the Hot Cross Buns traditionally served at Easter? The latter had a number of additional superstitions attached to them in addition to keeping the Devil from sitting on them. It was believed that a Hot Cross Bun kept in the kitchen (if baked on Good Friday, they’d never go bad) would generate a blessing to all yeasty products baked during the coming year, and sailors would take buns with them as good luck charms when they went to sea. Hot Cross Buns were guaranteed to preserve friendships, too. You gave one to a friend or potential friend and said “Half for you and half for me; Between us two shall goodwill be!” Alternately, one could chant “Hot Cross Buns! Hot Cross Buns! One half-penny, two half-penny, Hot Cross Buns! If you have no daughters, give them to your sons! One half-penny, Two half-penny, Hot Cross Buns!”

Cute. I wonder if putting a cross on top of your bread would negate the “curse” if you found a coffin hole in it?

WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS (,, specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced and directed (and occasionally acted in) over a dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and Crime genres. His first novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF, is available for purchase here:


TheCheezman • June 18, 2018

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