The 13 desserts of Christmas
In Provence, the traditional Christmas meal is called le gros souper (the big supper). It ends with a ritual number of 13 desserts symbolizing Christ and his 12 Apostles. The desserts must be served all at the same time and each guest must taste each one of them.
On the table lit by 3 candles, symbol of the Trinity, and decked with the dish of the wheat corn of Sainte Barbe - wheat or lentil, symbol of rebirth - are arranged the Thirteen desserts, symbol of hrist and the 12 apostles.
You can see
- the green melon sheltering in the straw,
- the apples and pears still smelling of autumn,
- the black and white raisins which each housewife has chosen bunch by bunch and left to dry in the attic under a protective tulle.
- there are walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds. these dried fruit are called "mendiants" or medicants because their colours resemble the clothes of the medicanty monks : Carmelitess, Dominicans, Franciscans and Capuchins.
- there are figs, oranges and madarins that Provence has known since time immemorial.
- Finally nougat (the dark nougat is made on the farm with the honey from the nearby hives and the almonds from the orchard, but the white nougat is bought at teh confectioner's)
Among the Thirteen Desserts, we also count the jams made during the grape harvest either from grape muust of fig juice to which one has added autumn fruit, and the flat cake made with oil, called "pompe" in Aix en Provence and Marseille and "fougasse" in Arles and Haute Provence.
And then the fortified wine, which is Jesus himself.