The Feast of the Seven Fishes, or “Festa dei Sette Pesci”, is a Christmas Eve tradition in many Italian households. Most popular in Southern Italy and in Italian-American homes, this Christmas Eve feast stems from Catholics abstaining from meat in commemoration of waiting for the birth of baby Jesus. There is a lot of symbolism in fish to early Christians, who used a fish to identify themselves in times of persecution. The significance of the seven fishes has a number of symbolic representations: the number of sacraments, the seven days of creation, the seven virtues, the seven deadly sins and the seven days it took Mary and Joseph to reach Bethlehem before baby Jesus was born. Some families celebrate with less or more courses, three courses to represent the three Wise Men or 13 courses to represent the apostles and Jesus. Although the number of courses vary by household, all Italians will agree it must be an odd number because odd numbers bring luck in the Christian faith.
A Christmas Eve Tradition
Start a Christmas Eve tradition with your own Feast of the Seven Fishes by inviting your family and friends over for a holiday meal. Popular fishes featured on Christmas Eve include baccala (cod), octopus, calamari (squid), scallops, shrimp, crab, eel, clams, anchovies, sardines, smelt, lobster and mussels. Feature as many or as little fish courses as you’re comfortable with, as there are no set rules when it comes to this Christmas Eve tradition. The only things required for the Feast of the Seven Fishes are delicious food and celebrating with friends and family.
Seven Fishes Menu
Chef Cento created a Feast of the Seven Fishes menu, featuring seven fish recipes and two desserts to top off the meal for this Christmas Eve feast.