Christmas culinary traditions in Provence

Christmas culinary traditions in Provence fr

In France, traditional Christmas dishes vary by region. The Christmas meal in Provence is uniquely laden with symbolism.

It all starts with the chacho-fio (literally meaning "set on fire" in Provençal) when the oldest and youngest members of the household choose a Yule log from a fruit tree, which they carry three times around the dining table (a Trinitarian symbol). The “grandfather” places the Yule log on the hearth fire and then blesses it with mulled wine. The fire burns until midnight, and the log is lit again each night until the New Year.

Following this ritual, the "gros souper" (large supper) begins. It is a light meal (without meat) but copious its size. It is made up of seven dishes, representing the seven sorrows of the Virgin Mary, all made from local produce and foods from Provence.

The “gros souper” must be served on a table decorated according to the Provençal tradition: three white tablecloths upon which three white candlesticks and three saucers containing sprouts of Saint Barbe wheat (symbolizing the Trinity and Hope) will be placed.

Finally, 13 desserts are served (honouring the 13 people present at the Last Supper of Christ), the custom which is certainly still the most beheld today. While the amount stays the same, the desserts themselves may vary. Some of the most popular ones include:

  • Dates, symbolizing Christ coming from the East; 
  • White and dark nougat, white for purity and Good, dark for the impure and Evil; 
  • Fougasse, a brioche or bun made with olive oil; 
  • Candied quince or other candied fruit
  • Oreillettes (deep-fried sugar pastries); 
  • Fresh fruit: oranges, tangerines, pears, grapes or winter melons.

All in all, a Christmas celebration in Provence amounts to a hearty and festive traditional meal.