The following was told to me by my informant.
“It’s called the feast of the seven fishes, it is an Italian tradition. A lot of my friends do it too, but there’s a lot of variations depending on what region you are from. Every Christmas Eve, we did this and it was led by my grandparents at their house in Pittsburgh. Basically, it’s a big fish feast, and you had to have 7 kinds of fishes. Usually there were mainstays, like calamari, bakala…it could switch around a bit, but there were always seven fish. We always made a special fried bread with mashed potatoes in it that we called rispelli. Then, the tradition came to our house, and I was more involved then, going to the fish market and helping cook starting in the morning. The entire family helped out, and we would have fun, and drink wine, then enjoy the dinner feast. Nobody’s sure what it symbolizes– Seven sacraments maybe? It’s an important number in the Bible. My dad’s family did it when he was little too. It felt special because we only ate that food at Christmas Eve, and when we were kids, we didn’t really like it. But by the time you grow up, you really like it and enjoy the food.”
Context: This was told to me when my informant came over to my house.
Background: My informant is Italian-American from the East Coast. She is from a big, close extended family who enjoys their Italian heritage. Her grandparents were immigrants from Calabria.
I participate in this every year, too. I love this tradition, and I find it very true that the food really does not taste good but because you associate it with happy memories you learn to love it.