If you know my family, then you know that every Christmas Eve, for as long as I can remember, we have celebrated the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Growing up we never really got to all seven fishes, but now with my brother (the chef) we always have seven fishes! Bacala, anchovies and smelts are what my mom grew up with. Now we may have salmon or shrimp or tilapia!
So what is the Feast of the Seven Fishes?
The Feast of the Seven Fishes or Vigilia di Natale was originated in Southern Italy and is not practiced throughout all of Italy. This is the waiting period before the birth of Jesus, where Roman Catholics were to fast. Part of the fasting was not to eat meat or butter.
The most known fish used in this tradition is bacala (salted cod fish), which is a remembrance to the impoverished ways of Southern Italy. Other fishes over the years have been incorporated into this celebration.
We are not sure exactly where the number 7 comes from, but it has been noted in the bible numerous times. Many Italian Americans do not stop at 7 but continue with more.