Provence's 13 desserts tradition

15/11/2017 | Bertille SAUDRAIS

Christmas is coming and with it comes a multitude of traditions in Provence… Among the oldest and most celebrated, the presentation of the 13 desserts! Symbolically rich, they represent the number of guests present at the Last Supper. Composed of confectioneries, pastries, and fruits, they are served on Christmas Eve, after the “Gros Souper”, another Christmas tradition in Provence. They will stay on the table for 3 days, and all the guests must taste each one of these desserts. Their composition varies from one city to another, but they all share the same 5 elements: the “Pompe à l’huile”, the four “Mendiants”, as well as the two nougats.

The Pompe à l’huile, also called gibassier or fougasse, is a sort of cake made from flour, olive oil, brown sugar, and orange blossom. Central piece of the 13 desserts, it is said that you have to break it with your hands and not cut it with a knife to prevent you from financial ruin the following year. In the Provençal crib, it is worn by the character Pistachier.

Placed around the pompe à l’huile, the representation of the four religious orders, called the Mendiants, is made by the dried fruits. Walnuts (or hazelnuts) represent the order of the Augustinians, almonds are for the Carmélites, dry figs symbolize the Franciscans, and finally raisins represent the Dominicans. The black penitent and white penitent are represented by black and white nougat.

Then, we have the dried fruits, with dates, symbol of Christ from the East, and dried figs and other oriental fruits that represent the Magi. Fresh fruits, kept in cellars and attics since September, vary depending on the village. Among the most popular are grapes and melons. Oranges, symbols of wealth, are sometimes replaced by mandarins or clementines. At the hotel, we will serve you green melon, mandarins, apples, and pears.

Our chef will also prepare “fruits déguisés” (disguised fruits), which are dried fruits stuffed with marzipan. He will also add fruit jelly and candied fruits. Finally, Jérôme Blanchet will make you discover some local sweets with calissons from Aix and “oreillettes”.

Your taste buds will love it!

To discover these 13 desserts, we offer a Christmas package from €690 for two people. Our Christmas Eve menu and Christmas menu are available here. Information and bookings +33 4 90 65 61 61 or

Original text: Bertille Saudrais-Petit