Christmas Eve in South Florida and in my family is all about the seafood since we celebrate the Feast of Seven Fishes every year. Each year the family comes together with varied dishes: seafood salad is in the works, scungilli, roasted peppers with anchovies, clam gazpacho, cioppino (sometimes paella), scallops with fennel and blood oranges, ceviche, whitefish dip, and my second annual contribution – Crab Cakes with Aioli (although I am making them mini!).
Feast of the Seven Fishes is a tradition from Southern Italian that is maintained by Italian-American families across the country. It is also known as The Vigil (La Vigilia) and is a commemoration of the wait, Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus. As Mario Batali explains:
“It’s what Italians do when they say they’re fasting.” More precisely, the Feast is a meal served in Italian households on La Vigilia (Christmas Eve). In many parts of Italy, the night is traditionally a partial fast, during which no meat should be served. But in true Italian style, this proscription has morphed into something very unfastlike indeed: course after course of luxurious seafood dishes, often as many as 7, 10, or even 13. “No one’s quite sure of the significance of the number,” says Batali. “Some families do seven for the sacraments. Some do ten for the stations of the cross. And some even do 13 for the 12 apostles plus Jesus.”
We have done Seven Fishes for the years that we have been in South Florida and Christmas Eve becomes an oceanic feast!
Looking for something different than a roast dinner? Change it up and celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes … I am sure I have just the recipe to tempt you into a NEW tradition!
Hungry Goddess Family Recipes:
Other Traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes Recipes