Another Christmas has come and gone, but our memories will always last forever. If you’re Italian American, you probably have great memories going to purchase fish with nonna at the local fish mart or shopping with your mom for ricotta and cheeses. Italian Americans take their customs and traditions very seriously, with the Feast of the Seven Fishes being one of the most important ones.
According to foodnetwork.com, before 1861, Italy was made up of several regions, each with its own tradition. Since many southern Italian regions were very poor, it was easy for people to have fish since it was plentiful, which is how the tradition began.
Some believe the tradition also started since many Catholics believe in not eating dairy or meat on the eve of holidays.
The number seven has significance because it is associated with God – the number is mentioned many times throughout the Bible. Another tradition is to eat twelve types of fish/ seafood for each of Christ’s Apostles as they were considered ‘Fishers of Men.’
When many Italian Americans immigrated to America in the 1900s, they brought their traditions and ideas with them, starting the Feast of the Seven Fishes for many Italian American families.
My grandma Catherine (Caterina) came to the United States in the 1940’s from Calabria. Growing up, we always held Christmas Eve at our house. It was something I would look forward to all year.
I loved having all my cousins come over, dressing up, exchanging Christmas presents, and having Uncle Tony dress up as Santa. I loved having shrimp and Liborio’s pizza as appetizers (among other foods, of course!) and eating yummy seafood for dinner.
Due to COVID, our family gathering was much smaller this year. However, we did eat rigatoni with vodka sauce, white fish, eggplant parmesan, salmon, linguini with clam sauce, and salad. Although we didn’t have seven fishes, the seafood we did have was amazing and carried on our family’s traditions.