Noel en Provence
When Christmas comes to Provence, every town and village is animated with Christmas markets. Adults and children can find handmade gifts, Christmas ornaments, jewelry, and of course local food.
But the best part of all is the “Santons” -little figurines dressed in provencal fabrics made from the fine clay of Marseille. The Nativity Scene can represent all the people in the village, such as the mayor, the policemen, bakers, butchers, etc. Homes and animals can also be represented.
During the month of December, markets remain open to the rhythmn of “pastorals” (songs of Provence) until the Kings are added to the nativity for the Epiphany on January 6th, an occasion called “The Cake of the Kings”
The big dinner is served on Christmas Eve and requires real staging. The table contains many symbols: Three candles for the Trinity, small balls of red holly, and bread and wine on a white tablecloth. The meal takes place until the hour of midnight mass. It is a meatless meal, as Christmas Eve is a day of abstinence.
Traditionally, there are seven lean dishes with seasonal vegetables, fried cod, mullets with olive, snails along with cardoon, artichokes, stew of eel, octopus stew, gratin of spinach, lentils, omelettes…Each region of Provence has its own customs.
Then there are the 13 desserts! The number 13 is symbolic of the Last Supper - Christ and the 12 apostles. And when the clock strikes midnight on Christmas Eve, Father Christmas fills everyone’s shoes with wonderful gifts!
The Thirteen Desserts
Presented on the same table after the great supper, accompanied by mulled wine.
~ Oil Pump – The “Poumpo”
(based on flour, olive oil, water, orange blossom and brown sugar)
~ White Nougat with Almonds ~
~ Black Nougat with Almonds from Provence ~
~ Candied Lemon ~
~ Calissons of Aix: Candied Melon ~
~ Nuts (represents the order of the Augustinians) ~
~ Almonds (represents the order of the Carmelites) ~
~ Figs (represents the Franciscan order) ~
~ Raisins (represents the order of the Dominicans) ~
~ Winter Pears ~
~ Apples ~
~ Oranges or Mandarins ~
~ Dates ~
Enjoy the Season!