The 13 Christmas desserts of Provence

In Provence, region in the South-East of France, you will find this very interesting tradition of the 13 desserts of Christmas: "les treizes dessert de Noel". It is said that there are 13 of them, in reference to Jesus and the 12 apostles sitting at the last supper. Their composition varies greatly from village to village. But they all have in common that they will be served all in the same time, on the same table and in good numbers, after the midnight mass.

As I said the composition of the 13 desserts de Noel varies a lot but they all will traditionally start by the 4 mythical ones, named : "les 4 mendiants" (literally the 4 beggars) followed by "la pompe a huile" (the olive oil pump) and the 2 nougats.

So there is a list of the Provencal 13 desserts of Christmas:

  • Les 4 mendiants (the 4 beggars):
- Hazelnuts or walnuts (symbolizing the order of St Augustin )
- Dry figs (symbolizing the Franciscan order)
- Almonds (symbolizing the Carmelite order)
- Raisins (symbolizing the Dominican order)
  • La pompe a huile (the olive oil pump):
- Flat yeast bread made with olive oil such as a Gibassié, fougasse. (This bread should be broken like Jesus did at the last supper and not cut to prevent bankruptcy in the new year)
  • les 2 nougats
- White nougat (made with pine nuts, pistachio and hazelnuts)
- Black nougat (made with caramelized honey cooked with almonds)

This give us 7 desserts. There is a lists of desserts that would be commonly used locally :
  • Dattes (that could be stuffed with marzipan)
  • Calisson d'aix en Provence
  • Quince fruit paste (or jam)
  • Fresh white grapes
  • Christmas melon (called verdau), called green espiran in English due to its colour.
  • Fresh oranges (sign of wealth)
  • Candied melons
  • Winter pear and apples
  • Plums
In some place children are not allowed to start digging into them unless they named them all first.

As you can see it makes a healthy option in these times of reach, festive dinners.

My be a cause of allergies. Vegetarian, vegan, gluten free (except the bread), suitable for pregnant women.