Friday, April 24, 2015

The Widow's Bun Ceremony, 3rd April

London is full of strange rituals and ceremonies – the Ceremony of the Keys where a Beefeater goes round locking up the Tower of London every night (and you can go and watch) is one on a large scale. At the other end of the scale is the touching ceremony held every year at the Widow’s Son pub in Bow. It also doubles as an exuse for a right ol' knees up.
Legend has it that a woman’s son went to sea and was due to return home at Easter so she baked him a hot cross bun and put it in the window for him. He didn’t turn up, but having faith that one day he would, and not wanting him to think she’d given up hope, each year she did the same. When she died and the place was turned into a pub, the pub upheld the tradition. So, each year, at 3 pm on Good Friday, a hot cross bun is hoisted into a net which hangs above the bar in remembrance of the original sailor and also, as it turns out, other sailors who have passed away over the years. Locals and non-locals alike gather to take part in/observe this East End tradition and it is quite a merry affair with music blaring, and a big spread laid on. At 3 pm on the dot a young sailor is lifted into the air to do the honours and everyone sings along to some sea shanty (I presume) and also God Save the Queen. And then we have a moment of silence as we remember those in the community who passed away, which is quite moving. But they soon lift the mood again with some tunes and that quickly gives way to karaoke.
It provides an excellent excuse to drop into a local pub which still has a community about it. There were the typical East End characters – older brazen ladies all done up in their war paint, hair and nails immaculate. There were attendees young and old, and of course, plenty of sailors. We stuck around for a couple of pints (a round was only just over £6!) and Stephen made sure to sample one of the many, many hot cross buns baked for the occasion and then  we headed off for our normal 'hipster' lives…

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