At Christmastime in Provence, in the south of France, there’s a tradition of having a Christmas meal consisting largely of vegetables, followed by 13 desserts. 13 signifies the number of people at the last supper – Christ and his 12 apostles. The table should be decorated with 3 candlesticks, representing the Trinity. The meal and dessert are eaten before the family goes to midnight mass on Christmas.
Traditionally, a place was also left at the table for ones ancestors. The leftover food was left out all night. This way the ancestors could take part in the meal too. (There’s a similar Day of the Dead custom in Mexico, of leaving out food and a place at the table for ancestors.)
It is very important that there are at least 13 desserts – also called Les Treize Desserts de Noël. The 13 desserts can vary depending upon tradition. Generally, they are:
1. Black Nougats – Symbolizing evil – Hard candy made with honey and almonds.
2. White Nougats – Symbolizing good – Soft candy made with sugar, eggs, pistachios, honey, and almonds.
These four are supposed to symbolize beggars, represented by four religious orders (Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelite Nuns, Augustinians):
3. Dried Figs
5. Hazelnuts or other nuts
6. Dried Grapes
The symbol of Mary and Jesus’ safe journey from the East:
Some of the other desserts eaten, depending on the region, are:
Calissons d’Aix (almond-paste pastry with sugar icing)
Oil Cake called Fougasse or Pompe à l’huile (made with Orange Flower Water and Olive Oil)
Finally with these desserts, one drinks cooked wine, representing Jesus himself.
One must have a taste of each dessert to have good luck for the whole year.
Many thanks to Monique Palomares of Mama Lisa’s World en français for telling me about this tradition!
This article was posted on Thursday, December 21st, 2006 at 4:14 pm and is filed under Christmas, Countries & Cultures, Desserts, France, French, Holidays Around the World, Languages, Provence, Recipes of the World, The Thirteen Desserts of Christmas - Les Treize Desser. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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