The Feast of the Seven Fishes is a cherished tradition synonymous with an authentic Italian American Christmas celebration.
While few Sicilians in Italy may recall this holiday tradition, it has been kept alive and passed down through generations of Italian-American families.
The Feast of the Seven Fishes tradition is to eat at least 7 fish dishes on the evening of December 24.
The Origins of the Seven Fishes ( festa dei sette pesci)
Some say the tradition stems from the roman catholic church tradition of eating meatless meals on vigils like Christmas Eve.
In southern Italy, fish was an obvious and abundant meat substitute. Others believe seven symbolize completion or perfection in the Bible.
And it’s no secret that fish also plays a big part in the Christmas story!
While its exact origins remain uncertain, it is believed to have originated in the early 1900s in the vibrant neighborhood of Little Italy in New York City.
With the influx of Italian immigrants during the peak of emigration, this tradition found fertile ground to flourish.
The Significance of the Number Seven
Why a seven-course meal?
The number seven represents various significant elements, including the seven sacraments, the seven days of creation, the seven virtues, the seven deadly sins, and the seven days it took Mary and Joseph to travel to Bethlehem before the birth of Jesus.
The tradition of consuming different seafood dishes on “la Vigilia” di Natale is interpreted in two ways: as a sacrificial act, representing the anticipation of Jesus’ birth, or as a gesture of welcome and respect towards the unborn child.
28 Recipes for the Feast of the Seven Fishes Dinner
Christmas Eve Italian style is only complete with baccala, or salt cod, one of Italy’s most famous traditional dishes.
This is how all the Italian grandmothers used to make it, and it will please both the kids and adults!
Delight in the flavors of baked clams seasoned with fragrant oregano.
It is a classic addition to any Feast of the Seven Fishes spread.
Perfect for Feast of The Seven Fishes. Brodetto di Pesce (seafood in broth) is a popular Christmas seafood dish with mixed fish and seafood and could not be easier to make.
This chilled seafood salad is filled with seven different types of seafood and flavored—the best addition to your Italian Christmas Eve dinner and for the Feast of Seven Fishes.
Scallops in a delicious and spicy garlic Nduja butter.
This recipe is super easy to make yet has that wow factor that’s perfect for special occasions
Crab ravioli may take a little more time than ready-made pasta, but the result is worth the effort.
The delicate crab filling is light and delicious.
This traditional swordfish dish is easy to prepare and packed with lovely flavors and colors—just the perfect main course for a festive dinner as a midweek meal.
Garlic shrimp oreganata is a traditional Italian dish that is easy to make and great to enjoy with a glass of wine during the holiday feast.
Baked hake is an elegant, simple dish loaded with bright flavors!
This dish, prepared with juicy tomatoes, kalamata olives, and bright lemon juice, will be the star of any dinner.
This Italian white fish recipe consists of pan-seared cod in white wine sauce, making a restaurant-quality meal with bright, citrusy, and herbaceous flavors. It is perfect for Christmas!
This heavenly combination of calamari is bursting with flavor from capers, olives, green onions, garlic, hot pepper, lemon juice, and a crispy breadcrumb topping.
#12 Cioppino Recipe
Cioppino is an Italian “zuppa di pesce” fish stew made with crab and shellfish in a savory tomato broth.
An easy yet elegant meal!
#13 CALAMARI FRITTI
This recipe for calamari fritti has the lightest, crispy coating, just like you’d get in Italy.
Quick and simple to make, this is a seafood dish everyone will love.
Tips: Add other kinds of fish such as shrimp, squid, and mixed minnows to make a fritto misto.
Transport yourself in Italy with this classic pasta dish featuring tender clams and al dente spaghetti.
A touch of garlic, white wine, and parsley harmonize the flavors.
Calamarata is a quintessential Neapolitan seafood pasta sauce featuring a brothy tomato sauce perfect for la scarpetta.
Make it in just 20 minutes for Christmas dinner!
Flaked salt cod is tossed with olive oil, parsley, and garlic for a light seafood salad, perfect as an appetizer or part of an antipasto platter.
This ravioli recipe calls for the fish to be baked first before being used in the filling.
The ravioli are then filled and served in a light seafood sauce, allowing the flavors of the fish to really shine through.
This easy linguine frutti di mare recipe is the best seafood dish for Christmas.
Filled with five different kinds of seafood in a light tomato sauce, this flavorful dish comes together in less than 45 minutes.
A festive tuna fish salad packed with cannellini beans, onions, oregano, and red wine vinegar is the perfect balanced plate for Christmas Eve.
Crispy, pan-seared salmon in a rustic tomato sauce flavored with onions, garlic, and kalamata olives!
A classic Italian dish made with salmon.
Succulent Spicy Garlic Shrimp is the perfect, simple appetizer or a second course for all seafood lovers!
It is abundant with flavor but not complexity, with only a few key ingredients and a bit of marinating time.
Plus, it gives you lots of fun dipping opportunities!
Italian-style mussel soup is a cozy meal for your loved ones on Christmas!
Shrimp sautéed quickly in garlic, white wine, and lemon zest become a quick, satisfying appetizer for celebrating Christmas Eve as a family.
Enjoy this hearty yet light pasta dish’s bright flavors of sardines, tomatoes, and fresh herbs, perfect for Christmas Eve feasting.
Sweet seared scallops are dressed and paired with colorful veggies, making this salad refined but relaxed for Christmas festivities.
Pistacchio crusted fish is a great idea to elevate the flavor of a simple baked fish.
Pistacchio crust is super easy to make, crunchy, and flavorful. The crust adds flavor to the fish and keeps it from drying out.
Juicy grilled swordfish steaks are a delicious main protein for Christmas Eve supper, whether served with lemon wedges or on more composed plates.
This Smoked Salmon Wreath is the perfect addition to your festive table.
Simple to prepare and so delicious.
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Buon Natale and Happy Holidays!