When most people think of an Italian Dinner, they think of the main course being either a pasta or meat dish. And while for the majority of the time, that’s true…Christmas Eve Dinner (Cena della Vigilia di Natale) is an entirely different “animal”.
For those of you who haven’t experienced a true Italian Christmas Eve, you are missing out on one of the greatest traditions in food history; if I do say so myself. And to those of you who are about to experience your first, it will be a “feast” to remember. It is a meal without meat, honoring the midnight birth of the baby Jesus. To make a very long story less long, the dinner is known as the Feast of The Seven Fish (Festa dei Sette Pesci). You got it! We serve seven different fish dishes throughout the night! Why seven? Well, each fish represents one of the seven Sacraments in the Catholic Church.
While it doesn’t really matter what fish is served, as none specifically refer to a specific Sacrament, the key is to have seven. In our family, we serve Shrimp, Scungilli, Eel, Smelts, Octopus, Lobster and Cod. The really nice thing about this tradition is that it’s about the fish itself and not how it is prepared. So while my brother and sister-in-law will eat the eel and smelts fried, I’ll have them baked! That way I can remain conscious of my waistline without ignoring my bloodline.
And, in case you are really curious, this custom originated in Sicily and has since spread throughout Italy and around the world. Italians and Italian-Americans alike still celebrate this old-world custom that has been handed down from generation to generation. And now, with little Willie-Mo, we’ll be able to ensure it gets passed down for at least one more.
So, what’s this week’s take-home-message? No matter what your tradition is, remember to make it (and the food especially) as healthy as it can be. That way, you’ll tip the odds in your favor that there will be more years of traditions that you’ll be able to keep with those that you love and whom love you!
Oh, one more thing…I know you’re asking yourself about the subject line of this installment; I wrote “8 Fish and Tacos”. No, it’s not that your trainer lost count. You know I never do. It’s that thanks to the millionaires and billionaires, Christmas Day at Staples Center will allow for me to see Derick Fisher (aka D. Fish – Get it?) and if the Lakers score at least 100 points and win, we’ll get Tacos too! Go Lakers!! Thanks Mike!!!
Wonderful? Yes indeed, It’s A Wonderful Life! The Holiday Traditions abound! It was on last night. Thanks Mom! Love Ya!