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Seven Fishes of Christmas Eve

This traditional Christmas Eve dinner custom originated in Southern Italy where Christmas Eve was considered a day of fasting.

The evening meal was a feast to break the fast, but no meat was allowed. Since the fish in Southern Italy is among the best in the world the seafood feast was the simplest - and best - substitute.

Why the number seven was chosen for the number of fish dishes is a mystery lost to the ages. Some say that it signifies the days of the week, others the seven winds of Italy.

The most accepted version is that there are seven sacraments. Each of these religious rituals marks a life passage from birth and marriage through death. The Christmas Eve dinner sets out seven fish dishes to signify this life cycle on the night that celebrates the birth of the Saviour.

Whatever the reason, anyone who has taken part in one of these feasts is grateful for the abundance. Seven traditional dishes shared at a table with family is a wonderful way to begin the Christmas celebrations.

The fish that is served varies with the region - and the family, but usually includes the traditional seven fish:

  • Baccala (cod)
  • Gamberi (shrimp)
  • Calamari (squid)
  • Scungilli (conch)
  • Vongole (clams)
  • Orate (bream)
  • Spigola (bass)


also see -> More Italian Holiday Recipes



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