Office de tourisme et des congrès

The" Gros souper"

 

On Christmas Eve, the last day of Advent, the big table is set to bring together family and friends before they leave for the midnight mass.
This meal, traditionally known as the "Gros Souper" in Provence, is a supper without any meat, in accordance with the rituals of the Catholic faith.


Three saucers containing wheat planted on St Barbe's Day are placed on the table, which is covered with three white tablecloths and lit by three candlesticks holding white candles.


 

The figure three is omnipresent in Christmastide traditions. It symbolises the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

The meal is made up of numerous dishes. The most popular are:

"aïoli" sauce served with cod, boiled vegetables, (carrots, artichokes, cauliflowers, potatoes, green beans) and hard-boiled eggs,
chard stalks with a white sauce.
spinach au gratin.
celery with anchovy sauce, etc.

The meal ends with the thirteen desserts, symbolising Christ and the twelve apostles. Originally the desserts consisted of just 12 buns and a large loaf marked with a cross. Nowadays, the desserts include:

olive oil "pompe" (bread) which is broken,
white and black nougat, which some say represent Good and Evil,
dates, whose oval shape is purportedly the symbol of Christ,
the four "beggars" - dry figs, raisins, almonds and hazelnuts - representing the religious orders of the Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites and Augustinians,
green melon, preserved on straw,
"Picon", oranges in Marseilles
white grapes, stored hanging at the back of cellar.

Depending on the localities and their resources, the desserts can also include prunes, walnuts, apples, pears, mandarins, water melon jam or quince paste, etc., etc.
The meal is washed down with a cooked wine for the desserts and a choice of seven locally produced wines for the rest of the meal.

It's hardly surprising not to find the Christmas log included in the "Gros Souper" tradition. It is a recent addition, although it seems to perpetuate the tradition of “cachio fio”, according to which Christmas Eve began with the burning of a large log from an olive tree or fruit tree by the oldest person in the company, who then blessed the fire, splashed it with cooked wine and pronounced the words:

E se sian pas maï, And, if we are not more numerous,
Que siegen pas mens !Let us not be less numerous!

OTCM