The seven fish Christmas Eve dinner originated in Southern Italy. The meal is supposed to symbolize fasting, even though the celebration is the exact opposite of that.

The crazy amount of seafood consumed is supposed to help you reflect on abstaining from red meat until Christmas Eve. As far as I'm aware there is no definitive reason for the number seven, so my family, along with many others, go above and beyond seven fishes every year.

What do you eat?

Usually the night starts off with many different appetizer options: mussels, clams, shrimp cocktail, clams casino, a seafood salad, popcorn shrimp, fried calamari, king crab legs, and octopus (for the adventurous ones).

So, you're already at around six different fishes and dinner hasn't even started.

Following appetizers is the first course of linguini with more clams and mussels in a red sauce. Since we have already had these in our appetizer round of Christmas Eve, I don't add these to the overall count.

Next: everything else. Usually at this time, more bread and wine are passed around, as everyone digests their second serving of pasta. The next course consists of whatever fish anyone else in the family brings: salmon, sole, cod, or tilapia. At some point, a salad and other vegetable gets passed around, but no one shows much of an interest.

Fish count: around 10

The feast ends with endless lobster tails, and, of course, a side of butter.

Fish count: lost count.

How do you survive this night?

Out of the whole year, Thanksgiving included, this is probably the most food you will consume in one night, and in one sitting. Obviously it is important to wear loose clothing to this Christmas celebration, but here are a few other tips to keep in mind.

1. Do NOT skimp on appetizers.

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Kara Hawker

They're delicious and you should enjoy every bite, it's pointless and stupid to try to "save room."

2. Say yes to seconds of pasta.

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Shalayne Pulia

I mean, why not?

3. When the bread comes around, take two slices.

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Sharon Cho

Honestly, maybe take three, you're going to want to dip it in the homemade pasta sauce.

4. Do NOT say no to another lobster tail.

In fact, you should stay on your toes and immediately call one when the next tray gets pulled out of the oven. How many times a year do you have the opportunity to indulge in almost unlimited lobster tails? 

5. Do not wear a white shirt.

Red sauce stains are not easy to get out.

6. Hide a bottle of homemade wine for you and the group you're sitting with.

Do you really want to share the homemade? Also, you won't have to interrupt eating to get up to get another glass.

7. Enjoy your time with family.

Take a time to appreciate the wonderful family that you are blessed to share the celebration with.

If your Italian family is like mine, there are a lot of people at Christmas Eve dinner to begin with, and the numbers keep growing. With families getting bigger and expanding, it's not as easy to see everyone as often. Take a moment to put your fork down, and realize how wonderful it is that you can all share the food coma together.

If you don't like seafood, you may want to avoid this dinner. But, if you're like me, you'll want to start mentally preparing for this meal a few days in advance. So enjoy every bite and don't skimp on anything, Christmas Eve only comes once a year.