Festa dei Sette Pesci: the Christmas Eve with the tradition of cooking seven different types of fishes

Italian American Christmas, Natale, Christmas Eve, Christmas, Italy,
The table decorated for the Festa dei sette pesci

Italians honor the tradition of Christmas Eve through the so-called Feast of the Seven Fishes, or as they say in the old country, “Festa dei Sette Pesci.” The tradition started in some regions of Southern Italy, like Campania and Sicily. The Christmas Eve dinner started when Catholics anticipated the birth of the baby Jesus on Christmas Day, then they would receive Holy Communion during Midnight Mass. Meat cannot be eaten the day before Christmas so Italians decided to cook seven different types of fish or “fishes.”

The number seven is related to some symbolism: it took seven days for God to create the earth, as well as seven are the sacraments. For some families, it represents the Three Wise Men and the Holy Trinity, whereas others use to have 13 fish varieties to represent the 12 apostles, with the final one being for Jesus. As Bible doesn’t mention anything about seafood, Catholic Italians can cook fish like calamari (squid), baccala (cod), blue crabs, scallops, pupa (octopus), shrimp, clams, oysters, lobsters and much more.

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