What's the Meaning of The Feast of Seven Fishes?

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Italians are not the only group that feasts on fish for Christmas Eve. Portuguese and Greeks do as well. Many Mediterranean countries do this. Portuguese eat fish on Christmas Eve, as my mother told us, because the farm animals kept Jesus Christ warm in the manager. So we do not eat beef, lamb, or pork or any mammals on these days.

HI Nancy - Thanks for sharing that with us. I think that there are probably a lot of reasons for the feast that grew over time and developed regionally. (And I also think this one is as good as any I've heard!)

My mother's family was from southern Italy. She never heard of it either although baccala was served Christmas Eve and at any other time you felt like it. But there was also sausage, lasagna, meatballs, antipasto and lots of Italian bread and wine.

Hi Linda - I think that's the general consensus. Fish was part of the celebration but somewhere after the journey to America, it became the star of the show!

Thank you for a fun and informative article. I'd like to add a reference to the dialogue. The December 19, 2021 Phila. Inquired made more the the first reference to the feast was an Inquirer article from 1983 about the La Buca restaurant take on the feast.
Although my husband's paternal grandparents lived in Phila. he doesn't recall every celebrating this.
Thank you again. Happy Christmas.


I'm certain that no such feast exists. It was probably hype made up by cable TV producers to boost viewers. Similar to the way today there are all kinds of over-the-top descriptions for phases of the moon, e.g. super moon, blood moon, hunter's moon, etc. Nothing but hype that gets eyeballs and clicks in the age of internet. Feast of the Seven Fishes comes out the same hype machine. I grew up in an Italian American household and never heard of it until well into adulthood. And when I first heard it, it was on, guess where? Cable TV food shows.

Hi Bizo - Thanks for reading and commenting. You're right on point. Plenty of Italian-American households enjoyed decades of Christmas Eve fish dinners without ever having heard of the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Happy New Year!


Fasting before Communion includes everything except water. It was once after midnight then modified to Three hours prior to receiving. It is now one hour prior.

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