*Feast of The 7 Fishes



Feast of Seven Fishes is a tradition that is widely believed to have originated in Sicily or Northern Italy. It is a celebratory feast that takes place on Christmas Eve. From one family to the next the feast will be a little different depending on the region of their Italian heritage, the recipes passed down and the personal flavor preferences of those in attendance but the two things they will all have in common are food & family!

Some people celebrate the dinner with 7 different kinds of seafood, some with more, some with less, the number isn’t really as important as the fact that the dishes (or at least most of them) are seafood. Why is the seafood important? Well, it has to do with the fact that Roman Catholic Italians fasted from red meat & dairy on Holy days, thus refraining from those ingredients until Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Those who practice “Festa Dei Sette Pesci” (“feast of seven fishes” in Italian) serve seven different fishes because 7 is considered a holy number. The Creation took place in seven days, the seven sacraments, seven deadly sins, and seven Christian virtues (hope, fortitude, charity, faith, temperance, prudence, and justice) among other biblical references to the number.

I am looking forward to hosting my first ever Festa Dei Sette Pesci this year on Christmas Eve. It will be my family’s first ever Festa Dei Sette Pesci actually.  I am of Italian Sicilian descent, in that one of my maternal Great Grandfathers was born and lived in Palermo Sicily until he migrated to the United States, met my Great Grandmother and began a family. (I know this only makes me about 1/8th as my other grandparents are of German, Irish, Hungarian and Austrian descent, but it is a piece of my cultural heritage that I do know and have always been curious about and drawn to.) Having a mother from a large Italian/Sicilian American family one would expect that I was raised celebrating this tradition annually for Christmas Eve but it was never one that was carried over with my great grandfather from “The Old Country” as they say. Instead, Christmas day was always the day we all got together and had our crazy big family Christmas.

Instead, my Christmas Eves as far back as I can remember have been spent with my father’s side of the family. With my Catholic-raised Irish grandfather (until he passed when I was 12) and my Jewish raised German grandmother at the home of my aunt & uncle surrounded by most of the same aunts and uncles and just a few cousins year after year celebrating our perfect little Jewish Christmas. Some years the dates have even aligned allowing the lighting of the menorah to take place during our Christmas Eve celebration. It has been a truly special season but over the years the dynamic of our family has changed and grown, with marriages and a new generation of kiddos. In the same regard though, sadly it has in a way shrunk with additional loved ones passing, distance and a few divorces along the way. These things have changed the holiday for me. With the passing of my grandmother earlier this year I had some epiphanies of sort through my grieving. {You can read more in detail about that here in my Blog titled “There’s a Season For Everything”}  https://thedazzlingdomesticdreamer.wordpress.com/category/theres-a-season-for-everything/

I learned about this tradition Festa Dei Sette Pesci myself about the time I became a mother about 15 years ago, and I immediately thought it was a neat idea. As a huge fan of seafood and all things Italian cooking I thought in the back of my mind that someday maybe, far in the future, it would be something that I would instill in my family as a tradition for our family unit moving forward generations. It has been a hard & painful decision to move forward with the beginning of this tradition this year because it represents a fair amount of loss in my life. Ultimately the passing of my grandmother is what inspired me to begin this new season and tradition and undeniably that means acknowledging that she is gone.

However, much like her influence built the foundation for the base to so many of my happiest Christmas memories, I want to begin thinking forward for my children. As my oldest approaches graduation from high school and leaving for college inevitably at a speed faster than light, I need to grasp on to this time while I have it and begin building an amazing legacy foundation like the one my grandparents have given me. One that my girls will choose to come home to year after year as they grow their own families. This culminates with our first of many to come I hope, Festa Dei Sette Pesci.

I have been casually pinning recipes that I love and pulling together my menu for months. I have spent very little time anticipating the actual flow of the day, I don’t doubt the day will still carry a slight sting, and at some point in the day I will shed tears I know but I have determined not to allow this day to feel like the funeral calling hours we never had (in respect of her wishes). In these last few days before the day, the little details have come together and I will turn a corner to begin this new season of tradition building……………as I just typed that  “last few days before the day ” my stomach dropped a little because the day is here! It’s time to start pulling the details together!

Here are the basics that will go into my first Feast of 7 Fishes:

  • 7 different representations of seafood
  • a soup, a salad, a dip or two, some bite-sized snack bits, 2-3 pasta’s and a mild white fish entree
  • coffee & cocoa bar to sip beside cookies before Santa arrives.

So with all that said it’s time for me to buckle down and get to work. I am super excited to host my 1st Feast of the 7 Fishes. Whether it goes like I picture it or not it won’t matter, what will matter is good food, good family, and good company because that is what goes into tradition building. I hope to begin for my children a tradition like the one I was blessed to be a part of during the first number of seasons in my life. Today we embark on the beginning of a new season, bittersweet but sweet it will be all the same! Thanks for taking time out of your busy holiday for this post. I wish each and every one of you and your’s,  a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful Holiday Season! Check back to see more inside peeks from our home this holiday season.

Check out my actual menu with recipe’s, food picture’s and links included in my Post-Christmas blog!!!


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