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Feast of the Seven Fishes

24 Dec

If you grew up in an Italian Catholic family, no doubt you will eat fish on Christmas Eve. La Vigilia di Natale, or The Vigil of Christmas, celebrates the anticipation of the midnight birth of baby Jesus. Similar to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, meat is not eaten on Christmas Eve as part of the abstinence tradition. For Italians, of course, abstinence doesn’t mean not eating, just not eating meat. Instead, dinner is a large family meal celebrated with seven fishes and/or various seafood.


Why the number seven? No one knows for sure, but there are several theories. Two popular ones are that seven is the most repeated number in the Bible, appearing over 700 times. Another comes from Genesis 2:2:  By the seventh day, God completed the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.

Whatever the number of dishes, traditionally the meal will include various pastas with seafood, sautéed and fried fish, and fish salads.




A photograph of Fried calamari (squid).

Whatever your Christmas Eve tradition, may it include a great meal shared with those you love.



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