In Provence, the gros souper on Christmas Eve usually ends with 13 desserts, a tradition traced back to the 18th century or earlier, which is said to represent Christ and the 12 apostles. Desserts include figs, raisins, almonds, and walnuts which represent the robe colors of the Franciscan, Dominican, Carmelite, and Augustinian orders. The white and dark nougats may represent good and evil. There are also dates, seasonal fruits, and specialty items that vary from town to town. The desserts, usually accompanied by vin cuit (a sweet wine), are served at the same time and everyone tastes a little of each.
From Saveur: Savor a World of Authentic Cuisine (December 2006 issue)