Origins and tradition – The Feast of the Seven Fishes is part of the Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration, although it is not known as such in Italy and is not a “feast” in the sense of a “holiday,” but rather a lavish supper. Christmas Eve is a day of vigil or fasting, and the abundance of seafood symbolizes the tradition of abstaining from meat until the Christmas Day feast.
Currently, the lunch comprises of seven distinct seafood dishes. The custom is known as The Vigil in Southern Italy, where it originated ( La Vigilia ). This event recalls the wait, the Vigilia di Natale, for the birth of Jesus at midnight. The long-standing custom of consuming seafood on Christmas Night derives from the Roman Catholic custom of refraining from eating meat on the eve of a feast.
On these days, when no meat or animal fat may be consumed, observant Catholics would instead consume fish (typically fried in oil). It is unknown when or where the phrase “Feast of the Seven Fishes” first became famous. The phrase was first mentioned in 1983 in The Philadelphia Inquirer.
- There are seven or more typical fish included in the supper.
- As a permanent notion or term, “seven fishes” is unknown in Italy.
- Even in some Italian-American households, the amount of fish meals is not tallied.
- A popular dish is baccalà (salted cod fish).
- The tradition of celebrating with a basic fish like baccalà recalls the traditions of historically impoverished Southern Italian regions, as well as seasonal considerations.
Over the years, fried smelts, calamari, and other forms of seafood have been included to the Christmas Eve meal. The number seven might be derived from the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church, the seven hills of Rome, or another source. There is no consensus on its definition.
Can fish be consumed on Christmas Eve?
Fish is consumed on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve fish consumption is a Catholic custom. On Fridays and holy days, Catholics were expected to abstain from eating meat and animal-derived products such as butter and dairy.
How many fish do Italians consume on the eve of Christmas?
While seven fish is the most popular variant of the ritual, some houses in southern Italy consume nine, ten, or twelve fish instead. Christmas Eve fish consumption is a Catholic custom. On Fridays and holy days, Catholics were supposed to refrain from consuming meat and animal-derived goods like as butter and dairy.