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The thirteen desserts
are the traditional dessert
In cultures around the world, dessert is a course that typically comes at the end of a meal, usually consisting of sweet food. The word comes from the French language as dessert and this from Old French desservir, "to clear the table" and "to serve." Common Western desserts include cakes, biscuits,...
foods used in celebrating Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...
in the French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...
region of Provence
Provence ; Provençal: Provença in classical norm or Prouvènço in Mistralian norm) is a region of south eastern France on the Mediterranean adjacent to Italy. It is part of the administrative région of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur...
. The "big supper" (le gros souper
) ends with a ritual 13 desserts, representing Jesus Christ and the 12 apostles. The desserts always number thirteen but the exact items vary by local or familial tradition. The food traditionally is set out Christmas Eve and remains on the table three days until December 27.
Dried fruit and nuts
The first four of these are known as the "four beggars" (les quatre mendiants
), representing the four mendicant monastic orders: Dominicans
The Order of Preachers , after the 15th century more commonly known as the Dominican Order or Dominicans, is a Catholic religious order founded by Saint Dominic and approved by Pope Honorius III on 22 December 1216 in France...
, Franciscans, Augustinian and Carmelites
The Order of the Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel or Carmelites is a Catholic religious order perhaps founded in the 12th century on Mount Carmel, hence its name. However, historical records about its origin remain uncertain...
- Raisins (Dominicans)
- Walnuts or hazelnuts (Augustines)
- Dried figs (Franciscans)
- Almonds (Carmelites)
- Dates, representing the foods of the region where Christ lived and died
- Dried plums from Brignoles
Brignoles is a commune in the Var department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southern France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department.It was the summer residence of the counts of Provence...
- Biscotins (biscuits) from Aix;
- Calissons d'Aix, almond-paste pastry with sugar icing (marzipan
Marzipan is a confection consisting primarily of sugar and almond meal. Persipan is a similar, yet less expensive product, in which the almonds are replaced by apricot or peach kernels...
- Candied citron
Not to be confused with Cintron.The citron is a fragrant citrus fruit, botanically classified as Citrus medica by both the Swingle and Tanaka systems...
- Casse-dents of Allauch (biscuit)
- Cumin and fennel seed biscuits
- Fried bugnes
- Fruit tourtes
- Oreillettes, light thin waffles
- Pain d'epice
- Pompes à l'huiles or fougasse à l'huile d'olive, a sweet cake or brioche
Brioche is a highly enriched French pastry, whose high egg and butter content give it a rich and tender crumb. It is "light and slightly puffy, more or less fine, according to the proportion of butter and eggs" It has a dark, golden, and flaky crust, frequently accentuated by an egg wash applied...
made with orange flower water and olive oil
Olive oil is an oil obtained from the olive , a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. It is commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and soaps and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps...
- Quince cheese
Quince cheese is a sweet, thick, quince jelly or quince candy.The recipe is probably of ancient origin; the Roman cookbook of Apicius, a collection of Roman cookery recipes compiled in the late 4th or early 5th century AD, gives recipes for stewing quince with honey.Historically marmalade was made...
The quince , or Cydonia oblonga, is the sole member of the genus Cydonia and native to warm-temperate southwest Asia in the Caucasus region...
paste (Pâte de coing)
- Yule log
Bûche de Noël is a traditional dessert served near Christmas in France, Belgium, Canada, Lebanon, Vietnam, and several other francophone countries and former French colonies...
- Two kinds of nougat
Nougat is a variety of similar traditional confectioneries made with sugar and/or honey, roasted nuts , and sometimes chopped candied fruit. The consistency of nougat can range from soft and chewy to hard and crunchy depending on its composition, and it is used in a variety of candy bars and...
, symbolizing good and evil
- Black nougat with honey (Nougat noir au miel), a hard candy made with honey and almonds
- White nougat (Nougat blanc), a soft candy made with sugar
Sugar is a class of edible crystalline carbohydrates, mainly sucrose, lactose, and fructose, characterized by a sweet flavor.Sucrose in its refined form primarily comes from sugar cane and sugar beet...
Eggs are laid by females of many different species, including birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish, and have probably been eaten by mankind for millennia. Bird and reptile eggs consist of a protective eggshell, albumen , and vitellus , contained within various thin membranes...
The pistachio, Pistacia vera in the Anacardiaceae family, is a small tree originally from Persia , which now can also be found in regions of Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Sicily and possibly Afghanistan , as well as in the United States,...
Honey is a sweet food made by bees using nectar from flowers. The variety produced by honey bees is the one most commonly referred to and is the type of honey collected by beekeepers and consumed by humans...
, and almonds