Ask any Italian about the “Feast of the Seven Fishes” and you’ll likely be met with a quizzical look. It’s extremely common for Italians to eat fish and seafood on Christmas Eve, but there doesn’t have to be seven different kinds!
“Yes, in the South [of Italy], fish is SERVED on Christmas Eve. But never seven fishes.” – Beatrice Ughi quoted in Saveur Magazine
In this fantastic piece from Saveur Magazine, Stacy Adimando interviewed a star studded selection of Italo-American foodies on their Christmas Eve traditions. While no born and bred Italian has heard of “La Festa Dei Sette Pesci”, all agree that a seafood centric feast is non-negotiable come December 24!
“In Italy, chefs and home cooks don’t seem concerned at all with the total number of fish served—just that there is an abundant spread.” – Saveur Magazine
It turns out, the Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian-American tradition. It may have its roots in Italy, but its expression is uniquely American. No one is quite sure where the idea of seven fishes comes from. Some say it pertains to the days of the week, the seven hills of Rome, the seven Catholic sacraments… there are countless explanations.
One thing we know for sure is there’s no need to limit yourself to seven fish! Fritto misto, steamed scallops, baccalà fritters, buttered anchovy crostini, spaghetti alle vongole, fresh oysters, steamed mussels, octopus salad, whole roasted fish baked in a salt crust… you see where we’re going.
Don’t forget, we’ve also got a great selection of fishy recipes here on the blog. Convert the seafood skeptics with Octopus Salad with Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, Hummus Bottarga, or Spaghetti with Yellow Tomatoes, Colatura, and Vacche Rosse Cheese.