Over more than seven centuries, Monaco created its own traditions carefully observed by the Monegasque families. Most of them are related to religious holidays, including the celebration of Christmas.
A Christmas Eve in Monaco brings all the family together. It’s a perfect family time, an opportunity to share warm moments with your loved ones.
Among others, Monaco has a Christmas tradition of an olive branch blessing. Usually, the youngest or the oldest guest would dip an olive branch in a glass of wine, come up to the fireplace, make a prayer and a sign of cross. All the other guests would then drink their wine and sit down at a traditional Christmas table, both refined and generous. You won’t imagine it without turkey and foiegras, while raffles and other games are traditional entertainment.
A round bread with four to seven hazel nuts and olive branch stacked in the form of a cross is another must of a Christmas table. This “Pain de Natale” is specially consecrated during the Christmas Mass. The Monaco Committee on Traditions is trying to revive it in cooperation with the local bakeries selling this special sweet bread a few days before Christmas.
Until recently, the Midnight Mass was only held in the Cathedral of Monaco. This year all the churches in the Principality are holding this ceremony on December 25.
Another interesting Christmas tradition is that of thirteen desserts, served in honor of Jesus Christ and his twelve apostles. One of them would be the “4 beggars” symbolizing different Catholic orders bound by a vow of poverty: Hazelnuts and walnuts for the Augustinians, dried figs for the Franciscans, almonds for the Carmelites and raisins for the Dominicans. The main dessert, however, is a tortilla La Pompe.
Traditionally, it is not cut with a knife, but broken just as Christ broke his bread. If it is done in any other way, a financial ruin is to be expected in the coming year. `
Chocolate, white and black hazelnut nougat, pine nuts and pistachios are also on the table for the children’s delight.
The 13 desserts are particularly popular in the Provence. Here is how Marie Gasquet describes the Christmas dinner in her novel “Childhood in Provence”: “It has to be thirteen desserts, thirteen plates full of sweets – twelve of them filled with fruits from the fields and gardens, and the thirteenth, the most beautiful, full of dates to the brim.”
After the festive dinner, many Monegasques attend the Mass traditionally held by the Archbishop of Monaco Cathedral. The consecrated bread is then distributed among the Christians.