What is the Feast of the Seven Fishes? Christmas Eve dinner ideas

What is the Feast of the Seven Fishes?  Christmas Eve dinner ideas

Everyone has their own Christmas traditions, especially when it comes to food. Some people prepare Christmas ham as a main dish, while others (like Ray Drummond) focus on making an amazing prime rib. But if you’re Italian-American, you may recognize the time-honored tradition of making Feast of the Seven Fishes!

But what exactly is this large, elaborate meal? Italian Christmas dinner is celebrated not with one course, nor with two, but – you guessed it – seven different fish dishes. Read on to learn more about how to host a fish-centric meal in your home.

But first, we’ll dive into the history of the Feast of the Seven Fishes and how it got its Italian-American roots. It all stems from the Roman Catholic Church where it is customary to eat fish (and abstain from meat) on the eve of feast days. But here’s the thing, you don’t need to be Italian to make your own seven fish feast. Anyone can participate in this tradition by adding seafood to their Christmas Eve dinner menu. Read on to learn everything you need to know about this holiday feast, including tips, recipes, and more!

A box of Seven Fish Feast Pasta with Shrimp

Con Paulus

Where did the Feast of the Seven Fishes originate?

The origins are a bit mysterious: it’s thought to have started in Sicily, where fish abound. Along with the custom of avoiding meat before the holy holiday, this special dinner (also known as… Eve) It became popular in the United States when many southern Italians were immigrating to the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Do they celebrate the seven fishes in Italy?

While many people in Italy enjoy a large meatless dinner on Christmas Eve, the Feast of the Seven Fishes is mostly an American tradition. In fact, many Italians have never heard of the holiday!

Of course, anyone who loves seafood can try it! Simply pick and choose some of the recipes below to add to your holiday table.

What is the significance of the Feast of the Seven Fishes?

There is no real consensus on what the seven fishes mean – some people claim that the number seven symbolizes the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church while others say it is supposed to represent the seven days of the week or the seven hills of Rome. In fact, there are families who choose to catch 12 fish (in honor of the 12 apostles). In both cases, the tradition of preparing a sea feast was seen as a way for Italian-American immigrants to reconnect with their native country.

In deciding which fish to serve, it’s really up to you! Some traditional dishes include stuffed clams, cold seafood salads, giant prawns, stuffed calamari, frito misto (fried seafood and vegetables), mussels marinara, bacala (salted cod) and many more!

How do you prepare the Feast of the Seven Fishes?

So, you want to prepare the Feast of the Seven Fishes this year. We salute you! Whether you grew up eating fish on Christmas Eve or not, your family is sure to be impressed that you tried it! Fortunately, there are no set rules for the types of fish that should be served, so the menu can vary depending on your preferences. If you want to include seven different fish, we suggest spreading them out throughout the holiday – from Christmas appetizers to main courses. You can also sprinkle on some non-fish dishes, such as vegetable dishes. Here are some ideas to get started:

Crab stuffed mushroom

Caitlin Bensel


Shrimp dip

Crab stuffed mushroom

Shrimp cocktail

Smoked salmon dip

Shrimp with garlic and lemon

Soups and salads

Lobster bisque

Clam chowder

Fish and potato salad

How to grill a lobster tail

Caitlin Bensel

Main courses

Surf and meadow

Cooked salmon

Grilled lobster tails

Burnt scallops

A packet of shrimp pasta chips

Sheet Pan Salmon Puttanesca

Sea bass with lemon garlic butter

Stuffed artichokes

Daniel Daly

Side dishes

Creamed spinach

Focaccia herb

Artichokes stuffed with anchovies

Slow cooker green beans

Parmesan steak fries

Eggplant caponata

What do you serve as dessert during the Feast of the Seven Fishes?

If you still have room for a Christmas dessert after a feast like this, something light with Italian classics is your best option. Try a plate of Italian Christmas cookies and biscotti. Or choose a scoop of gelato to finish the meal. Another classic dessert: panettone (a festive Italian Christmas bread).

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