Denver, Colo., Dec 24, 2022 / 10:00 am
There are numerous Christmas Eve traditions families around the world take part in, whether it’s watching a certain movie together, baking cookies for Santa, opening one present before going to bed, or eating a specific meal for dinner. The Feast of the Seven Fishes — in Italian “La Vigilia,” which means “The Eve” — is one of these Christmas Eve traditions.
So, where does this tradition come from?
This feast stems from the southern part of Italy and spans generations. Before 1861, Italy was made up of different regions. Each region had its own government, however, and the southern regions were the poorest areas in the country. This remained true before and after unification of the country. The new unified government allocated many of its resources to Northern Italy, which caused poverty and organized crime in the south. Although poor, the area was plentiful in fish with it being so close to the ocean.
The tradition is also tied to the Catholic Church’s practice of not eating meat during certain times of the year, for example on Fridays during Lent and on the eve of some holidays. The number seven is also symbolic in that it is repeated more than 700 times in the Bible, and in Catholicism there are seven sacraments, seven days of Creation, and seven deadly sins. Although it is not an actual feast day on the Catholic liturgical calendar, it is definitely a feast in terms of the amount of food on the table!