Les Treizes desserts de Noel: The 13 Desserts of Christmas
It isn’t Christmas in Provence without a heaping of tasty sweets. Before attending the midnight mass, families gather at the table to have the “Gros Souper” (big supper). The 7-course meal typically consists of meatless dishes, veggies and cheese. Afterwards, they head back to their homes to indulge in 13 sweets, the number representing Jesus and his 12 apostles at the Last Supper. Each one has symbolic meaning in local tradition. The table is set with 3 tablecloths and 3 candles symbolizing the Holy Trinity. Although each village has its own choice of desserts, some of the typical foods include:
• Dried fruits and nuts - The first 4 are known as the “Les quatre mendiants,” or the four beggars, which include figs (symbolizing the order of the Franciscans), hazelnuts/walnuts (for the Augustine order), almonds (for the Carmelites) and raisins (for the Dominicans)
• Pompe à huile– sweetened yeast bread made with olive oil. Bread is broken apart, not cut, like Jesus did at the Last Supper.
• Nougats – Two types: a black one containing honey and almonds, and a white one made with sugar, pistachio and hazelnuts. It is actually believed that each color represents good and evil.