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Have you heard of the Provençal Christmas tradition of 13 Desserts? They are traditionally set out Christmas Eve and remain on the table three days until December 27.
The usually observed rules: there are 13 desserts representing Jesus Christ and the 12 apostles. The list of 13 Desserts changes from one family to the other and there is a wide variety to choose from. Here are just a few ideas…

It’s best to start with the two nougats (symbolizing good and evil) and la pompe à huile (literally translated as an oil pump but which is a kind of bread also known as gibassié or the fougasse in Arles) and the four mythical beggars (les 4 mendiants), representing the four mendicant monastic orders: Dominican, Franciscan, Augustinian and Carmelite.

Tradition says that you have to break la pompe à huile just as Christ broke bread and not cut it or you might find yourself ruined the next year.

The 4 beggars:

  • Hazelnuts or walnuts (symbol of the Augustinians)
  • Dried figs (symbol of the Franciscans) which can also be stuffed with walnuts or almonds
  • Almonds (symbol of the Carmelites)
  • Dried raisins (symbol of the Dominicans)


  • Dried plums from Brignoles
  • Dates, which represent the food of the region where Christ lived and died (They can be stuffed with green or pink almond pastry)
  • Fresh fruit, apples, pears, oranges, winter melon, grapes, tangerines, white raisins (servan)
  • Cédrats confits (candied lemon)
  • Croquants aux amandes (crunchy biscuits with almonds)
  • Biscotins d’Aix (nutty biscuits)
  • Calissons d’Aix (traditional marzipan sweet)
  • Bugnes (small fritters)
  • Oreillettes (recipe below)
  • Pain d’epice (gingerbread)
  • Pâte de coing (Quince paste)
  • Bûche de Noël (Yule log)

(c) Mon OEil (CC BY 2.0)

Oreillettes de Montpellier

Ingredients for 6 people:

  • 50g flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 30g castor sugar
  • 75g butter
  • 1 sachet baking powder
  • 1 sachet vanilla-scented sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 100g warm water
  • Icing sugar
  • Oil (for frying)

Preparation: 10 mins
Cooking time: 30 mins

Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and vanilla sugar.

Make a hole in the center and add the eggs, the melted butter, the water and lemon juice. Mix first then knead lightly.

Roll out the pastry as fine as possible. Cut it into diamonds, circles and rectangles.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Plunge the cut out shapes into the oil and leave them to fry gently.

Lift them out one by one, and leave them to drain on absorbent paper.

Sprinkle with icing sugar, you’re done !

You can also find Oreillettes in many supermarkets around Montpellier, if you aren’t up to baking.

This article was first published in Le SUN magazine

Dennelle Taylor Nizoux

Dennelle is the President of Renestance and a bilingual American who’s lived in France since 2000. She loves so many things about France, its language, culture, geography, quality of life... that she started a business to help others realize their dreams of living in this incredible place.

All articles by: Dennelle Taylor Nizoux

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