French Christmas Desserts and Traditions

The most traditional of French Christmas desserts is the bûche de Noël (Yule Log). The other classic is Galette des Rois (Three Kings Cake) served on January 6 celebrating the Epiphany and marking the end of the Christmas season.

What’s so exciting is that there are many French Christmas desserts and depending on what family you ask and where they live in France you may get a different answer. Christmas traditions in France varies according to region but the major classic is -

The Major French Christmas Dessert Classic
Bûche de Noël

buche de noel history

The bûche de Noël, one of the oldest French Christmas desserts dates back to medieval times.  The story behind this classic -

slice of homemade buche de noel

To make your own try this bûche de Noël/yule log recipe. A great French dessert recipe and easy to follow.

Christmas in France is also modern and people have for dessert what they most enjoy and that becomes their tradition.

My friend Sylvie in Alsace France declares that her favorite desserts to serve at Christmas are:

Corinne from Lyon France favors one of the more famous French desserts:

  • Profiteroles

Didier from Mennecy in Northern France favors chocolate desserts from a chic restaurant in Paris, "Sarment St. Gervais". (but at home he'll be having the traditional Buche de Noel)

  • A large plate with 14 small delicious desserts all eaten in a specific order.

Paris at Christmas is lots of fun and a great time to go.

Muriel and Philip will be serving a medley of desserts:

  • on a plate, 1 scoop of ice cream, a slice of cake with chocolate, a macaroon, fruit cut "lace”, and a candied fruit.

Many French Christmas dessert traditions are shared by the country and not specific to region:

Marzipan, Marrons glacés (candied chestnuts), chocolates and other candy are some of the French holiday traditions for Christmas desserts.

What else to do besides eat dessert...

christmas in France decor

Christmas in France
a guide to what and where.

christmas tree at gallery lafayette

Paris at Christmas
Stunning decor and fun things to do.

tradtional santon de Provence creche

 Christmas Traditions in France - delightful regional variations.

Traditional French Christmas Desserts
by Region


Provence les treze desserts

Les Treize Desserts ©Creative Commons

Les Treize Desserts (Thirteen Desserts)

An ancient custom of French culture in Provence, 13 desserts are set out on Christmas Eve and served at the Réveillon (Christmas Feast). The number 13 is thought to symbolize Christ and his 12 apostles but no one can agree on what it stands for exactly. In some parts of Provence the number rises to 15.

The combination that makes up Les Treize Dessert is different according to what area of Provence you visit. Here is the gamut of delicious possibilities:

Mostly consisting of fresh and dried local fruit harvested in late November and stored in a cool place until Christmas.

  • apple
  • winter pear
  • mandarin orange
  • winter melon
  • local grapes
  • dried golden prunes
  • glazed fruit
  • “Mendiants” representing the color of monks’ robes:
  • almonds
  • dried figs and dates
  • raisins
  • Walnuts
  • Nougat blanc: dates as far back as the 18th century. (Made with sugar, honey, nuts, candied fruit)
  • Nougat noir au miel
  • Quince cheese (a jelly-like candy)
  • Casse dents of Allauch (a sweet buscuit)
calissons Provence candy

Calissons ©Creative Commons

  • Calisson of Aix-en-Provence (an almond candy made in Aix-en-Provence)
  • Fougasse: a Provencal sweet bread made with cinnamon, sometimes anise Also may be served at Epiphany.
  • Sweet breads made with olive oil, anise, and orange flavored water. According to cultural tradition must be broken not cut to ensure successful harvests.
  • Galette de Noël (flat, deep-fried disk dusted with sugar and dipped into warm honey)
  • Panado (a Christmas tart filled with apples)
  • Apple doughnuts
  • Tarte de la Veille or other simple fruit tarts

More Christmas Dessert Traditions in France



Kouglof of Alsace ©Creative Commons

       Kouglof (bundt-like cake made with brandy and dried fruit)

    Berauwecka (dried fruit cake)

    Bredele (butter cookies)

Eastern France

Spritz cookies

spritz cookies of eastern France

What else goes on in France at Christmas?

French Christmas traditional Santa in Provence

French Christmas traditional shopping, decorations, Midnight Mass and fun things to do.

old French Christmas Carol text

After dessert why not sing some French Christmas carols? Great way to practice French with the family.

Equally fascinating, there are many other facets to the culture of France waiting to be explored.

Return from French Christmas Desserts to French Culture Adventures

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