CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to France Magazines today CLICK HERE

The 13 traditional desserts eaten at Christmas in Provence

PUBLISHED: 15:55 01 December 2015 | UPDATED: 10:48 04 January 2016

Provence's 13 Christmas desserts © V. Formica

Provence's 13 Christmas desserts © V. Formica


Traditionally, Christmas Eve dinner in Provence is followed by 13 desserts and guests have to try each one!

The custom in Provence is for 13 desserts to be served after the Gros Souper (Christmas Eve dinner) which represent Jesus and the 12 Apostles. The table is set with three tablecloths and three candles to represent the Holy Trinity and guests have to try a small (or big) serving of each dessert. The desserts can vary but here is a selection of common ones you might find if you are in Provence on Christmas Eve:

Dried fruit and nuts – The first four so-called ‘beggar’ desserts represent the four orders of friars: raisins (Dominicans); dried figs (Franciscans); almonds (Carmelites); and hazelnuts (Augustinians).

Fresh fruit – Fresh fruit also has pride of place, and can include tangerines, apples and pears, melon and/or grapes.

Pain d’épices – France’s own version of fruit cake is a staple of Christmas traditions throughout France.

Calissons d’Aix – This almond-shaped confectionery from Aix-en-Provence consists of a ground almond and fruit paste base with a royal icing topping.

Nougat – The sweet treat from Montélimar comes in hard black and soft white versions, which are said to represent good and evil. It is made with beaten egg whites (for the white nougat), honey, nuts and candied fruit.

Quince paste Pâte de coing combines quince (a member of the apple and pear family) with sugar and goes well with the dried fruit.

Fougasse à l’huile – This flat cake (also known as pompe à l’huile) is always the final dessert. It is made with olive oil, sweetened with sugar and flavoured with orange flower water and grated orange and lemon zest. It must be torn, and never cut, and is dipped into ‘cooked wine’ (vin cuit), which is made by heating grape must to reduce it by half and then adding spices. Despite its name it is served cold.

Find out more about French Christmas traditions and festive events, plus learn how to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in French and make your own traditional French desserts

Article by France Magazine France Magazine

More from Language and Culture

Thursday, November 15, 2018

France has historically been on the leading edge of eco-friendly projects and regulations. While many argue that much more needs to be done to meet environmental goals in France and globally, here are 11 ways that French government, companies and people are striving to be green.

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

What’s in a name? A lot, it turns out. Find out the fascinating stories behind the names of these places in France featuring dragons, gods and Sardinian kings.

Read more
Thursday, November 1, 2018

Michel and Alain Roux have unveiled the menu at their new French-inspired riverside brasserie, Roux at Skindles

Read more
Friday, September 21, 2018

As a floating restaurant opens in Paris, we take a look at some of the city’s alternative dining experiences, involving famous rail carriages, secret doorways and eating in total darkness.

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Kate Mosse was a guest speaker at the Cheltenham Literature Festival in October 2018 and spoke about finding inspiration for her latest book – and beginning of a new series of novels set in France – The Burning Chambers.

Read more
Culture and attractions
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Agnès Poirier’s latest book explores the history of Paris 1940–1950 and the influential people that lived through the time. The French writer spoke about her book this year at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.

Read more
Friday, November 30, 2018

Gather the family and see how many of these animals you can name in French

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Want to take your French language skills further? These tips will have you chatting and joking away with the locals in no time!

Read more
Learning French
Thursday, December 6, 2018

When it’s cold outside, indulge your love of French food and drink at one of these stylish pop-ups and events closer to home

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Pigs, processions and high prices - why truffle season is a serious business in France

Read more
Subscribe for

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

France Forum

Questions about France? Visit our free France forum to get help and advice from thousands of other Francophiles and expats. Topics include: property, tax, law, travelling, pets, education, healthcare and much more.

Join the forum

Most Read

Join us on social media

France magazine
Living France magazine
French Property News magazine

Enter our competitions

Win books, DVDs, travel and even holidays in France in our great competitions! Take a look at our latest competitions…

Enter now