At Le Réveillon de Noël, Christmas Eve, the Provençal tradition of Les Treize Desserts (the thirteen desserts) is served after midnight mass following le gros souper, or the great supper.
The thirteen desserts represent Jesus and the twelve apostles at the Last Supper. In this array of desserts, fruits, nuts, and candy, each item has a significant meaning and varies from village to village. This buffet remains out for three days. You eat at least one of each of the thirteen desserts during this time to have good luck during the coming year. Children in some households may need to name every item on display before they can partake of them.
Les Treize Desserts:
- Four beggar monks to represent the four orders (walnuts = Augustinian, almonds = Carmelite, raisins = Dominican, dried figs = Franciscan)
- Fougasse is the bread which is broken (not cut) to represent Christ’s breaking of the bread at the Last Supper
- Black nougat represents evil
- White nougat represents good
- Dates highlight the foods of the region where Christ lived and died
- Winter mixed fruit (winter melons, apples, pears, plums, grapes) show a bountiful harvest
- Oranges are a sign of wealth
- Calissons, candied fruit and almond paste similar to marzipan, are made in southern France and are always a part of the treize desserts spread
- Orillettes are fried, thin waffles sprinkled with powdered sugar. No treize dessert display is complete without them!
- La bûche de Noël (see below)
- Candied fruits
- Dried plums
- Quince paste
- Cumin and fennel biscuits
La bûche de Noël, or the yule log cake, is a favorite French Christmas holiday dessert. It is a chocolate sponge roll layered with cream, covered with chocolate frosting to resemble a bark-covered log. It is usually decorated with marzipan flowers and leaves (as shown), or in a more woodland theme using marzipan or meringue mushrooms. Pronounce bûche wth pursed lips (“byuche”) or else it will sound like bouche, which means “mouth!”