Christmas Eve dinner is not just a meal, but a feast. A Feast of the Seven Fishes! It is tradition not to eat meat on this day. The significance of the number 7 has a few variations of the reason for 7, and depends on who you ask. Some say it has to do with a commemoration of the last seven of the Ten Commandments, which prescribe rules of human interaction -- as opposed to the first three, which address human relations with God. Others say it is to remind us of the seven deadly sins. In any case, seven fish dishes is a feast!
What fish you use is entirely up to you and what your family traditionally uses. In my family growing up we had many courses. We would have fried shrimp, smelt, baccala, stuffed calamari, calamari pie, octupus salad, cuttle fish, sardines, and of course the fish sauce. The fish sauce is made with all the sea food thrown in there including lobster and crab. The meal itself takes hours to eat. There is time between courses to drink wine, laugh, talk, open presents, and be reminiscent about the old days!
Dessert is always something spectacular and special during the Christmas season. The many many homemade Italian cookies, stroffoli, pannetone, cannoli, and more. Baking is started long in advance of Christmas. Some of the cookies that are made special for the holiday are very time consuming and take more than one baker to handle!
The tradition of the Feast is special to our family and many other families. It's a lot of work, it's very expensive, but I couldn't imagine Christmas without it!
Buon Natale!! Recipes will follow soon!!