A popular southern Italian tradition celebrated all over the world, is the Feast of the Seven Fishes. In Italy it is called “la cena della vigilia,” or Christmas Eve Dinner, December 24th; observed by abstaining from eating meat on Christmas Eve and enjoying the holiday meal with family, filled with a seafood spread.
WHY SEVEN?: Some say the number seven represents the seven sacraments, seven days of creation, or simply the fact that seven signifies perfection in the Bible. This may be speculation, however what is known is that this celebration is something that is very much appreciated and shared by most Italians and lovers of fish.
Fish: You will find virtually any Mediterranean fish prepared from this region. Everything from anchovies to eel. Popular fishes in the feast include calamari, smelts, clams, and shrimp.
One of my favorite is baccalá, a dried, salted cod.
Baccala How To: To reconstitute the baccalá, you soak it for two days, changing the water three or four times.
I prepare the baccalá several ways including sauted and with tomatoes, but it's also quite popular to prepare it in the oven with potatoes or even in a salad with potatoes and black olives.
The Seven Fishes is a feast that brings family and friends together to celebrate a very important evening, and the seafood is only the centerpiece of what really takes place... keeping a tradition alive with family and friends. Isn’t this what holidays are really about?