Santons Marcel Carbonel 


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Traditions of Provence

The 13 desserts

The 13 desserts symbolise the Messiah surrounded by his 12 apostles at the time of the Last Super. If the number is imperative, the choice of desserts is rather optional in the list that follows (and which remains open, by the way); some of them are symbolic and anchored in tradition.

Dry figs

Fresh figs are strung and hung up to dry until the winter.They are called beggars in reference to certain religious orders:

Dry grapes (for the Dominicans), Almonds (for the Carmelite friars) Nuts or hazel nuts (for the Augustines)

Fresh fruits

Pears, Apples, Oranges, Tangerines, Arbutus-berries, Sorb apples, Winter melons (yellow melons kept in the attic), Dates


Conserve of citrons, Quince paste, White nougats & black nougats

The thirteen desserts are all present on the same table and are accompanied by cooked wine. They conclude the Gros Souper, while waiting to go to midnight mass.

The "Cacho-Fio", the Christmas log

On Christmas Eve, when the table is fully set, tradition requires that one chooses a beautiful log (oak or fruit tree) that the oldest person of the house, helped by the Caganis (the youngest child of the family), places in the hearth so that it is consumed until New Year's Day. Cacho-fiò means "to set on fire" in Provençal dialect.

It is customary in Provence to pronounce the following sentences: Diéu nous fague la gràci de vèire l'an que vèn, Et se noun sian pas mai, que noun fuguen pas mens ! (May God gives us grace to see the coming year, And, if we are no longer living, that we are no less alive.)

The Wheat of Santa Barbara

The festivities of Christmas in Provence actually start on Saint-Barbe day, December 4. It is the time to start the crib. One spends the day placing grains (or lentils) to germinate on a saucer on cotton soaked with water. The wheat that germinates until December 25 will be the premonitory sign of the year to come bringing rich harvests and happiness. We say in Provence: "Quand lou Blad vèn bèn, tout vèn bèn". (When the wheat is fine, everything is fine).


This is a not for profit association in the Region of Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur. In Provence, you will find, for 1 Euro, a small sachet of wheat in bakeries, shops and stands, as well as in other shops. This money will be used for settling the invoices for leisure, educational or medical equipment, as soon as it is installed in hospitals or Centres for Handicapped persons. The Association has become an institution in the Region of Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur.

the "Gros Souper" (the big supper)

When waiting for midnight mass, one eats the Gros Souper. It must be made up of seven light dishes (primarily of vegetables), in remembrance of the seven pains of the Virgin Mary.
The table is set on three white tablecloths that recall the Holy Trinity.
One lays an additional setting for the pauper, and the Wheat of St Barbara shines amid the dishes.

The traditional menu

is as follows:

Cabbage Soup, Celery with Anchoïade (Bagna-Caudo) or Truffle Salad and celery, Snails. Aïgo Boulido (soup of boiled water; garlic, sage, olive oil and bread). Cod au gratin with spinach. Cardoons in a truffle or white sauce. Cheese

The 13 desserts end the meal.