No one remembers when Provence started the Christmas tradition of serving Thirteen Desserts (also called Calenos), as the first written reference only dates from 1925.
But the tradition of a huge feast with multiple desserts served at midnight on Christmas Eve goes back centuries. But it’s 13 that has stuck over time, representing the Twelve Apostles and the baby Jesus.
Fortunately for diners these aren’t rich, heavy desserts. The classics are apples, pears, green melon, fruits confits, black and white nougat de Montélimar, calissons, pompe à l'huile, quince pâté, dates and the four Mendiants (walnuts or hazelnuts, dried figs, almonds and raisins). Vin cuit is the classic accompanying wine.
Someone has counted 55 variations of the the Thirteen Desserts in the villages and family traditions of provence, including walnut tarts, prunes, mandarines, oreillettes, tourte aux blettes, Cachat, chocolates, etc.
Image by jean-louis zimmermann