The Feast of the Seven Fishes is a Christmas Eve tradition where families gather for a seven-course meal of fish and other seafood in place of meat. Christmas Eve is a day of fasting and an abundance of seafood reflects the tradition of abstaining from eating meat and animal fat until the feast of Christmas Day.
The number “seven” is the most repeated number in the Bible. Regardless of the religious symbolism, for most people the main purpose of the feast is to gather family and friends over a delicious meal.
It is a ritual that has been handed down from generation to generation and is popular with Italian and Italian American families. It originates from Southern Italy where it is known as La Vigilia (The Vigil).
Seven Fishes, Seven Dishes
The favored dishes may vary from family to family and will include an array of the freshest catch-of-the-day such as eel, whiting and cod, as well as a combination of other seafood such as clams (casino), mussels, oysters, squid, scallops, calamari, lobster or shrimp. The meal also includes vegetables, pastas and desserts.
Serve five fish courses, one palate-cleansing dish and a final course of desserts to end the meal on a sweet note. Some families have been known to serve ten specific fish dishes symbolizing the Stations of the Cross or 13 dishes for Jesus and His 12 apostles.
If you’re planning on cooking the feast for the first time, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.
First Course: Antipasti (salt cod, salmon or trout)
Second Course: Light Salad (seafood over mixed greens or seafood salad)
Third Course: Center Cuts Fillets of Fish (cod, salmon, bass, or another fish with vegetables, beans, or legumes).
Fourth Course: Pasta (pair seafood with noodles)
Fifth Course: Seafood Stew
Sixth Course: Palate Cleanser
Seventh Course: Dessert
The seafood department at Skip’s on the Ridge is a great source for an incredibly fresh selection of seafood for your Christmas Eve feast. Always place your holiday seafood order the weekend before Christmas Eve to have it in time. Markets are very busy this time of the year and fresh seafood moves fast!