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An Italian Christmas Tradition

An Italian Christmas Tradition

Courtesy of the New York Public Library, Circa 1955

Courtesy of the New York Public Library, Circa 1955

An Italian American student shared with me his grandfather’s seven fishes family tradition. It's difficult to precisely pin down the origins of this tradition but it apparently comes from southern Italy and calls for serving seven different fish dishes on Christmas Eve. There are three popular theories about why serve seven fishes: the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church—baptism, penance, Holy Eucharist, confirmation, marriage, holy orders, and the sacrament of the sick; the seven deadly sins—pride, envy, anger, gluttony, sloth, lust and greed; the seven days it took Mary and Joseph to travel to Bethlehem where the baby Jesus was born. The fish feast on Christmas Eve can include among other dishes Lobster Ravioli, Tuna Fish and Cannellini Beans, Salmon and Chick Peas, Mussels Marinara, Fried Flounder Filet, Fried Calamari, and Baccalà (bacalao in Spanish) served stewed, in a salad, or deep-fried. 

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Christmas Traditions in Virginia

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