The ancient tradition of eating fish on Christmas Eve dates from the Roman Catholic custom of abstinence from meat and dairy products on the eve of certain holidays, including Christmas.
Although it is unclear when the dinner became so popular, this celebration is considered one of the most Italian traditions. Typically, the family gathers around a feast of seven different seafood dishes or one or two different types of fish prepared in seven different ways.
The number seven is rooted back in ancient times and it can be connected to multiple Catholic symbols: in fact, the seven seems repeated more than 700 times in the Bible. Also, according to the Roman Catholic Church, seven are the sacraments, the days of the Creation, as well as the deadly sins. Hence seven courses!
Flash forward to the early 1900s, when the official “Feast of the Seven Fishes” first emerged. Italian-American families rekindled the Old Country’s Christmas Eve tradition by preparing a seven-course seafood meal (hence the name of the newly found tradition) that both made them feel close to their homes, while celebrating the sea, a major connection in Italy.
Today, it’s considered one of the oldest Italian traditions — but we give America credit for that!
Acciughe Marinate alla Ligure (Marinated Anchovies)
Brodetto di Branzino (Wild Sea Bass Soup)
Crudo di Pesce (Fish Tartare)
Paccheri con Sugo di Mare (Seafood Pasta)
Pesce al Forno (Baked Fish)
Pesce alla Griglia (Grilled Fish)Pesce in Umido (Fish with Roasted Fennel and Taggiasca Olives)