Italian Christmas Eve

Thursday, November 14, 2019
The Feast of the Seven Fishes is part of the Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration, in Italy, it's not called a feast but it certainly is pretty much the same and they refer to this name as a "Grand Meal" for their Christmas celebration dinner.

Christmas Eve is a fasting day for any kind of meat, and only seafood is served (actually several kinds of fish is made on this day) as part of the menu.

This Italian Christmas Eve Tradition of no meat continues to stay true to an Italian American seafood feast we serve her in America.

The seafood is part of Catholic abstinence from eating meat until the feast of Christmas Day.

The "Grand Meal" (feast) consists of seven different seafood dishes and traditionally was started in Southern Italy, and known simply as The Vigil (La Vigilia).

This celebration was to wait and welcome the Vigilia di Natale, and the birth of baby Jesus.

The seafood for Roman Catholics typically is fried fish in oil and shellfish that they could afford and was freshly caught.

Among the fish were clams with pasta which we add to Cioppino which is a fish stew, a salted codfish called baccala being the most popular to serve which is a codfish in a tomato sauce or squid, white fish, and several others that were fried.

In some of the oldest Italian American families, there was no count of the number of fish dishes that were served this Christmas Eve night.

Fried smelts and other types of seafood like Calamari fried were introduced into the menu much later through the years on Christmas Eve.

Here is a sample of the most popular ones we make every year.

May you all have a blessed season upon and enjoy the Traditional we set forward to carry on with this Catholic Christmas Eve menu we made through the years.

this is a collage of fish on Italian Christmas Eve pin for later

More History

Well, in a nutshell, America takes credit for this 7 fishes tradition after the immigrants settled here.

Around 1861 Regions in Italy joined a single nation the states in the Southern part of Italy suffered for it.

The new government started allocating their resources to the north causing poverty, crime and made things worse.

Approximately 4 million people from those Regions moved to America from 1880 and 1924 which started the feast in American.

The immigrants felt closer to home continuing their fish Christmas Eve dinners and hence the Italian-American celebration was started and still continues.

In Italy, each of the 20 Regions has a different culinary tradition on Christmas Eve dinner.

Some families in Rome have a fish-based soup called minestra di pesce, and in Sardegna, they have pasta gnocchi served with sauce.

this is a pot of seafood scampi

Seafood Scampi Pasta

this is a big pot of seafood in tomato sauce called cioppino

Cioppino Fish Stew

this is baked cod fish on a white plate with a bed of spinach

Baked Cod with Roasted Vegetables

this is baked haddock with a zucchini shrimp medley on top

Baked Haddock with Shrimp Zucchini Salsa

Butter Crumb Escargot

this is shrimp stuffed flounder

Stuffed Flounder with Shrimp

fried calamari with tomato sauce on the side

Fried Calamari

stuffed octopus in a tomato sauce

Stuffed Calamari

Codfish on top of spaghetti


Fish Fry

this is a candy cane made with tomato and mozzarella with balsamic drizzled on top

Insalata Caprese

Best Tempura Batter for Shellfish

this is a huge bowl of white chowder with crab legs and assorted shellfish

White or Red Italian Chowder

this is cannoli mousse for Christmas in plastic cups

Cannoli Mousse

Italian anisette biscotti cookies

Italian Biscotti

An Italian Panettone bread made with Amaretto

Amaretto Pannetone

Italian pizza called Tomato Pie

Tomato Pie

homemade Italian candy called Torrone


24 kinds of cookies on a table

24 Kinds of Favorite Cookie Recipes

1940 old photo of grandma and grandpan

Christmas Eve 7 Fishes The Story

these are roasted chestnuts in Merlot

Merlot Chestnuts

this is a medley of mussels and other seafood on top of pasta

Seafood Medley

Spinach and Egg Holiday Italian Breakfast

Pin for Later

Pin for later Italian Christmas Eve Menu

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Easter Recipes

Game Day Recipes

Best Holiday Side Dishes

Red White and Blue Recipes

Halloween Roundup

Thanksgiving Recipes

Christmas Recipes

Disclosure: This recipe was originally shared in 2012. It was edited and re-published in 2019.