The 7 Fishes

Now that the holidays are here, I can’t help but think back to what I like to call the “Festival of the Seven Fishes,” the annual Christmas Eve feast in my Calabrian home.

I wrote about it in My Two Italies, and I’ll share the passage below. Let me know about your own holiday traditions, which I hope were as tasty – and happily chaotic – as mine.


Italian identity card of the “author” of our seven-fish feast: my mom, Yolanda Luzzi (1953)

From My Two Italies:

“We consecrated every event in our home with some dish. On Christmas Eve I would force down the baccalà (salted cold) and six other fish dishes that my red-meat family otherwise snubbed as I waited for my father’s return from his annual holiday cocktail next door at the Pfalzengraffs, a German-Italian family blessed with two voluptuous teenage girls who walked me to school. I dreamed of stealing a moment under the mistletoe with plush Arabella while my siblings devoured plate after plate of linguini with calamari, spaghetti alle vongole, and, worst of all, stuffed shrimp, an American concoction that had never graced a Calabrian table in the Old Country. Soon enough we would hear my father’s footsteps. We hoped he had won a peck from Arabella or her equally curvy sister Karin—anything to calm him down during the messy unwrapping of the gifts, the ritual that brought out his inner Mussolini.”

1 thought on “The 7 Fishes

  1. My son, the youngest of my children, has chosen to carry on the tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. Now mind you, he is only half Italian and one quarter Calabrese. We may not have all of the fish that I remember growing up but we definitely have 7 fishes, including calamari, shrimp, oysters, white fish, lobster, scallops and flounder. What is so delightful for me is that his wife’s family (who are not Italian) thoroughly enjoy this celebration. It is great to share with you. Wishing you and your family happiness in the new year.

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