Where Did Jamaica’s Easter Tradition of Eating Bun & Cheese Come From?

Photo credit: Grace Foods

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Even during the current pandemic, Jamaicans and members of the diaspora have been sticking to the annual tradition of eating bun and cheese during the Easter season.

A week or two before Good Friday, the shelves of supermarkets and smaller stores are stacked with bun and tin cheese as residents begin to purchase in bulk, in preparation for the holidays. Those abroad also search high and low for Jamaican shops and stores that possibly supply “Easter bun”. But while Jamaicans enjoy this delicacy every year, not many people are aware of how the tradition even began.

Eating Bun and Cheese was originally a British tradition in the United Kingdom during the 1600 and 1700s. In the UK, small, round, and slightly sweet buns, called hot cross buns, were made with a cross cut into the tops.

Hot Cross Bun

Sale and consumption of the buns were supposedly forbidden in England, except during specific times, one of which was Good Friday. The cross came to symbolise the crucifixion of Jesus. The Hot Cross Buns nursery rhyme was thought to be used by pedlars announcing their selling of the treats. Many grew up singing the nursery rhyme in Jamaica:

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!

The nursery rhyme and the buns made their way to Jamaica via the British, who carried their traditions with them when they colonised the island in the mid-1600s. Over time, Jamaicans of course, put their spin on the custom.

Variations of the hot cross bun were made and old in Jamaica, with the same tradition of eating it during Easter. Eventually, like with many other baked staple goods, Jamaicans added cheese into the mix and began the tradition of a bun and cheese sandwich.

Although bun and cheese is sold all year long, there is a spike in sales during Easter because of the tradition. Whether home or abroad, if you visit any Jamaican’s home during Easter, it is very likely that you will find bun and cheese.

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