Italy consists of many different regions and provinces and so customs differ across the country. These individual traditions made their way over the Atlantic and so more variations evolved for Italian Americans. Italian American traditions passed down across generations are an important ingredient to their Christmas celebrations.
While Christmas is a major holiday in Italy, celebrations can be on different days. Some start on December 13th, the Feast Day of Saint Lucy, when Santa Lucia brings gifts for the children. For others Christmas Eve is the grand occasion, while many wait until January 6th for the Feast of the Epiphany, more commonly known as La Befana.
In Italian American homes it is the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve, a tradition stemming from the Roman Catholic practice of abstaining from meat on the eve of certain holidays. In Catholicism; there are 7 sacraments, 7 days of Creation, and 7 deadly sins, the feast taking it’s lead from these or maybe simply the 7 hills of Rome?
It is not important what fish is included or how the fish should be prepared, some families choose to have twelve dishes, referencing the 12 apostles.
Seafood dishes followed by desserts served with whipped cream and fresh fruit, accompanied with a selection of wines and liqueurs, an Italian American Christmas Eve. Buon Natale.
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