My husband and I grew up in big Italian families. We had Sunday family dinners, homemade hot sausage pulled right from the cold cellar, red wine before we were legal, and grandparents always yelling munja, munja. In Italian, Munja, Munja means eat, eat.
We had many family traditions. Unfortunately, most went by the wayside when we lost our grandparents and great grandparents.
Even though traditions are fading, one tradition my husband is keeping alive is the “festa dei sette pesci,” also known as the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
According to L’Italo-Americano, www.italoamericano.org, “The tradition started in some regions of Southern Italy, like Campania and Sicily. The Christmas Eve dinner started when Catholics anticipated the birth of baby Jesus on Christmas Day, then they would receive Holy Communion during Midnight Mass. Meat cannot be eaten the day before Christmas so Italians decided to cook seven different types of fish or “fishes.” The number seven is related to some symbolism: it took seven days for God to create the earth, as well as seven are the sacraments. For some families, it represents the Three Wise Men and the Holy Trinity, whereas others use to have 13 fish varieties to represent the 12 apostles, with the final one being for Jesus. As Bible doesn’t mention anything about seafood, Catholic Italians can cook fish like calamari (squid), baccala (cod), blue crabs, scallops, pupa (octopus), shrimp, clams, oysters, lobsters and much more.”
There are many theories surrounding the meaning of the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
To us, we believe eating the Seven Fishes will bring you good luck in the New Year. We actually cook close to 10 fishes just for good measure!
The chefs of the meal has evolved throughout the years, but the meal planning goes to my husband and my father. My dad is a Chef by profession so when my husband asked if he would like to participate, he was ecstatic.
Those two in the kitchen are dynamite!
The family gathers together anxiously awaiting for the best meal of the year.
And let me tell you they never disappoint.
Dinner consists of Fresh Fishes, Calamari, Scallops, Shrimp, Lobster, Pastas … my mouth is watering just thinking about it! Months before the dinner is to take place, I start to give my dad a list of dishes I want him to recreate. This years recreation will be a lobster, scallop pasta in Truffle sauce!
Like true Italians, the desserts do not disappoint. Homemade cookies and biscotti from Uncle Dan are the perfect sweet snack.
The wine flows and Sambuca shots float around the dining room.
This tradition means a lot to all of us. It’s coming together as a family and enjoying each others company. It’s celebrating our families past and knowing they are watching over us. I bet they are so proud of the tradition we are continuing.
Please share your family traditions in the comments!
From our family to yours, Merry Christmas.