Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Feast of the Seven Fishes

The Feast of the Seven Fishes also known as La Vigilia, is the traditional Italian meal on Christmas Eve. The tradition began in southern Italy and is now celebrated by Italians all over the world. There are many hypotheses of the significance of the number "7". Some people believe that seven fishes are served because it took God seven days to create the world, while others mention the Seven Hills of Rome. There is also the possibility that the seven fishes symbolize the seven scraments in the Catholic Chruch, along with the seven sins. Another theory is that seven is a number representing perfection: the traditional Biblical number for divinity is three, and for Earth is four, and the combination of these numbers, seven, represents God on Earth, or Jesus Christ.

Last night we celebrated The Feast of the Seven Fishes at "The Italian's" parents home. The meal began with an antipasto.

The table is set with traditional antipasto: cheeses, sopressata, roasted red peppers, fava beans, eggplant caponata, wine & bread

Deep fried smelts, shrimp, calamari, catfish & codfish cakes

Clams in red sauce over spaghetti

and...Lobster tail

The evening ended with lots of homemade cookies and my father in-law's wonderful canollis!


  1. Robin - aftera lifetime of never hearing about the feast of seven fishes, i stumbled across it this year, now, for the fourth time. (secretly waiting for seven times). I am so impressed with the scope of it and in my next life time - I will come back marrying into an italian family.
    Best wishes for a wonderful New Year!

  2. I loved hearing about this tradition, what a great celebration meal.

  3. My family has never gone the whole route of the seven fishes on Christmas Eve. But we did eat fish. I remember the older family members talking about the baccalĂ  course. It was a salted cod fish that was as still as a board, preserved in salt. It soaked in the bathtub for hours (dare I say days!) to get rid of all the salt before preparing it! Buon Natale a te.

  4. A lovely tradition, and this is first time I am reading about it. We have a tradition of eating codfish on Christmas eve.
    I think my favorite are lobster tails!

  5. What an interesting tradition! I've never heard of the Seven Fishes and appreciate learning this. Your special banquet is incredible.

    Happy holidays!

  6. I am normally a savory over sweet type of gal, but those goodies you and the FIL made have mouth watering. Looks like you had a wonderful feast!

  7. That sounds like quite a feast! In my next life I want to come back as an Italian. Perhaps I'll 'settle' for going back to Italy. :-)

  8. That is an amazing meal even without the delightful symbolism! Good grief, I didn't think anything could distract me from my grandma's cooking during the holidays but this is pretty tempting. :)

  9. What a great feast and wonderful tradition. Those photos make me hungry! Yes, we need to go back to Italy! Thanks for sharing.


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