The Feast of the Seven Fishes: An Italian Holiday Tradition
The Feast of the Seven Fishes represents an important (and delicious) Italian-American tradition. Traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve, this meal includes seven seafood dishes designed to satisfy any appetite.
Before you search for “restaurants near me,” discover more about the Feast of the Seven Fishes. As an Italian restaurant, Eddie’s on Lake Norman can help you understand the origins of this tradition. Call us at 704-799-2090 for more information.
The Origin of the Feast of the Seven Fishes
The Feast of the Seven Fishes has a reputation as an Italian tradition, especially in the United States. However, the custom more accurately represents an Italian-American tradition that developed in the late 1800s in Little Italy in New York.
The tradition grew from the idea of la Cena Della Vigilia (or Christmas Eve Dinner) practiced throughout Italy. However, different areas of Italy celebrated this tradition in various ways, and very few regions focused the meal strictly on fish.
Families from Southern Italy often used seafood in their holiday dinner, but they were more likely to call the meal Il Cenone, La Vigilia, or La Vigilia di Natale. The name we’re most familiar with, the Feast of the Seven Fishes, came from Italians who immigrated to the Americas.
Why Seven Fishes for Christmas Eve
If the tradition of eating seven fish dishes on Christmas Eve didn’t come from Italy, where did it develop? The custom of consuming fish over the Christmas Eve holiday has its origins in Catholic traditions tied to abstaining from dairy or meat on some holidays.
While some areas of Italy did not adopt this tradition for Christmas Eve, they may have adapted by utilizing foods they had available in the winter months when designing traditional Christmas Eve meals.
We cannot offer an exact answer on why the tradition calls for seven fish dishes. Many scholars believe it ties into the biblical significance of the number seven. The Catholic Church, in particular, has a focus on seven, with:
- Seven sacraments
- Seven days of creation
- Seven deadly sins
For many Italian-American immigrants, this number may have felt especially significant. If you find yourself looking for “seafood near me” around Christmas, the Feast of the Seven Fishes may help satisfy your craving.
Dishes in the Feast of the Seven Fishes
You could visit a dozen Italian restaurants nearby and find a different menu for the Feast of the Seven Fishes at each one. No regulatory board has decided which dishes make up an “official” Feast, allowing cooks the freedom to develop recipes that fit their tastes. However, we can review some of the most common fishes you might find if you look for “Italian near me.”
Calamari (or squid tentacles) represents a common choice, especially for appetizer dishes. Some people eat calamari in a chilled salad, while others prefer it fried and served with marinara sauce.
Shellfish represent a vital part of any seafood feast. Baked clams are a popular choice for bite-sized morsels that anyone at a table can enjoy. Some restaurants serve whole clams, while others prefer to chop clams into smaller pieces before battering them.
Another shellfish, mussels, often appear in seafood stews, but chefs can also serve them with pasta and tomato sauce. You can also enjoy mussels with herbs, garlic, and white wine. Eating mussels around Christmas time represents an important tradition for many Italian families.
Are you looking for a tasty and salty snack to include in a Feast of the Seven Fishes? If so, smelt (or sardines, if you prefer) may be the appropriate choice. Cooks can prepare these fish whole, allowing their guests to eat the entire thing, bones and all!
Baccala represents a salted fish that generally gets prepared over several mornings during traditional holiday cooking. After reconstitution, many people serve it with capers and onions. When you look for “restaurants near me,” you can look for options serving baccala for a special treat.
Many people see lobster as the pinnacle of seafood excellence. Interested in finding “Italian near me” for the holiday season? You may find a restaurant that offers rich, buttery lobster tail as part of the Feast.
Finally, some Italian meals include this giant sea snail. Many cooks add it in a seafood sauce or serve it as part of a seafood salad.
Enjoy the Feast of the Seven Fishes With Your Family
Have you asked, “Where can I find restaurants near me that serve Italian food?” If so, you can check out Eddie’s on Lake Norman. We prepare authentic Italian food, though our kitchens close on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day so everyone can spend time with family.
Eddie’s on Lake Norman: Authentic Italian Restaurant Serving “Seafood Near Me”
Ann-Margaret Wagner brings her hospitality and restaurant expertise from New York to the shores of Lake Norman with Eddie’s On Lake Norman. Ann-Margaret is the former owner of a successful restaurant in Westchester County, New York, called The Muscoot Tavern, an iconic “Cheers-like” bar, and grille. After visiting Lake Norman, she fell in love with the area, saw potential in the restaurant, and decided to make North Carolina her new home with her daughter Lacy.
After purchasing the business, which was previously Vinnie’s Sardine Grille and Raw Bar, she completely renovated the entire space, sold the other restaurant, and moved south. The kitchen is filled with all new appliances, while the bar, dining room, and back patio were all touched up to create a clean, comfortable and relaxed atmosphere. Whether in North Carolina, New York, or anywhere else, Ann-Margaret’s mission is always to provide the freshest seafood, prime meats, produce, pasta, and bread, every meal.
“I hope you enjoy eating our delicious cooking as much as we love making it for you!”– Ann-Margaret
If you would like to book an event at Eddie’s on Lake Norman, we require a $250 refundable deposit that can be applied to your bill and or credit card used for the deposit. We charge a $50 Event Fee and 25% gratuity, plus tax. For more information, call us at 704-799-2090.
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Eddie’s on Lake Norman
643 Williamson Rd
Mooresville, NC 28117
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