Feast of the Seven Fishes: A Delectable Dive into Italian Christmas Tradition

As the holiday season approaches, families around the world come together to celebrate their unique traditions and share festive meals. In the heart of Italian-American households, one such cherished tradition stands out—the Feast of the Seven Fishes. This culinary extravaganza, observed on Christmas Eve, is a celebration of seafood that traces its roots back to the southern regions of Italy. Join us on a mouthwatering journey as we explore the origins, significance, and delicious dishes that make up this extraordinary feast.

Origins of the Feast:

The Feast of the Seven Fishes, or "La Vigilia" in Italian, is believed to have originated in Southern Italy. While the exact roots are somewhat unclear, many attribute the tradition to the Roman Catholic practice of abstaining from meat on Christmas Eve. As a result, families would prepare an array of seafood dishes, symbolizing both indulgence and religious observance.

Significance and Symbolism:

The number seven in the Feast of the Seven Fishes is often associated with the seven sacraments in the Catholic Church. However, the symbolism can vary from family to family. Some see it as representing the seven days of creation, while others view it as a nod to the seven hills of Rome. Regardless of the interpretation, the central theme remains the same—the celebration of abundance, togetherness, and the anticipation of the Christmas festivities.

The Seven Delicious Dishes 

Now, let's explore the star of the show—the food. The Feast of the Seven Fishes boasts a diverse array of seafood dishes, each prepared with love and tradition. Some believe that the fish should be cooked 7 different ways but generally, the dishes can be any combination of seafood. Here are a few options (including some traditional Italian dishes) if you are going to have your very own Feast of the Seven Fishes. 

Baccalà (Salted Cod):

Often featured as a centerpiece, baccalà is traditionally prepared in various ways, such as Baccalà alla Vicentina, a Venetian dish featuring slow-cooked salted cod in a rich sauce.


Calamari (Squid):

Whether fried to golden perfection or simmered in a savoury tomato sauce, calamari is a popular addition to the feast, providing a delightful contrast in texture and flavour.


Linguine alle Vongole (Linguine with Clams):

This classic pasta dish showcases the simplicity of Italian cuisine, with fresh clams, garlic, and parsley taking center stage.

Linguine alle vongole

Shrimp Scampi:

Succulent shrimp cooked in a garlic-infused white wine sauce, shrimp scampi is a crowd-pleaser that adds a touch of elegance to the feast.

shrimp scampi
Zuppa di Pesce (Fish Soup):

A hearty and flavourful fish stew, Zuppa di Pesce combines an assortment of seafood, tomatoes, and aromatic herbs for a soul-warming dish.

Zuppa di Pesce

Baked Oysters:

Baked Oysters offer a delectable combination of plump, briny oysters coated in a crispy herb-infused breadcrumb crust.

Baked Oysters


Cooked Lobster In Garlic Butter:

You can't go wrong with decadent lobster cooked in delicious garlic butter. 

Cooked lobster with garlic butter


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