Skylark buns are traditionally baked to celebrate the Holy 40 Martyrs of Sebaste.
Sebaste, an ancient Roman town, is now called Ayas in modern-day Turkey. The date of the Holy Forty Martyrs’ “heavenly birthday” falls on March 22/9 (320 AD) and always within Great Lent.
The Holy Forty Martyrs were soldiers in the Roman 12th Legion called Fulminata (the Lightning -Thundering Legion). As Christians, they refused to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, and were brought to trial before the commander. After enduring many sufferings, they attained the joyous reward reserved for those who give their lives for Christ. The unwavering fortitude of the Holy Forty Martyrs exemplifies great faith, and perseverance to the end.
The Holy Fathers of the Church refer to Great Lent as a fasting spring. During this period, the souls of the faithful are sown with seeds of divine grace, to yield a harvest of good deeds, throughout the year that follows.
Buns shaped like birds (also known as skylarks) are traditionally baked to celebrate the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste’s feast day. Skylark buns are also shared after church on the first Sunday closest to their feast day, which also occurs near the first day of spring.
The skylark buns remind us of the Forty Martyrs’ steadfastness… inspiring own our souls to soar heavenward like birds, upon the wings of divine love; looking unto Jesus, the Author and finisher of our lives.
To Make the Larks
Take a piece of risen yeasted bread dough, about the size of a medium egg, and roll it out into a long ropey piece, about 5 inches long.
Tie it loosely into a knot, with approximately equal length protruding from both ends.
Put on a lightly greased cookie sheet (or use parchment paper). With a pair of scissors, cut a “beak” on one end of the knot, and on the other end of the knot, cut a “tail” into about 3 or 4 feathered strands.
Push 2 peppercorns firmly into the head, as eyes.
Do not put birds on cookie sheet too closely together, as they spread a bit as they bake. Cover, let rise again for about half an hour.
Pop into a preheated 370* oven and bake about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
TIP: For tastier buns, use a bit of honey, a dash of cardamon, and lemon or orange zest in the dough.
Some people prefer to use currants for the eyes, although these can turn gooey.
Birds freeze very well if baking ahead of time. You may need to secure their eyes again, if they come loose in bag when thawing.