On Christmas Eve we eat fish. That’s the sentiment I grew up with in my Italian-American household. The Feast of the Seven Fish is an Italian-American tradition that occurs each year on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is traditionally a day of fasting and at night, Italian-Americans break that fast by eating a ton of fish, seven to be exact. Eating fish is also a way to avoid red meat, which is abstained from on Christmas Eve. The number seven is a religious number and has biblical connotations.

My family doesn't stop there. Each year we eat 15 different types of fish on Christmas Eve.

Spoon University

The night and journey begins with appetizers. These include fried calamari and shrimp cocktail. The first time I ever had calamari, the waiter at the restaurant lied and told me it was kid-sized onion rings. It was only after I ate the calamari that my parents decided to tell me that it was actually squid, tentacles and all.

My family also eats stuffies which are a unique stuffed quahog, or clam, native to Rhode Island.  For appetizers, my mom also makes clams casino, smoked bluefish pâté and scallops wrapped in bacon.

Right now we've covered 6 of the 15 fish of the night. From here, my family moves onto the spaghetti course. We get the option between tomato clam sauce or aglio with anchovies. 

The last course of the meal includes snail salad, lobster tails, baked scrod with crab stuffing and fried eel. The first time my mom made fried eel they were still moving in the bag even though they weren't alive. Moral of the story, eels are creepy.

Along with the last course, my mom also makes baccalà, a type of salted cod. We also have smelts which are my least favorite because they're tiny fried fish with the vertebrae still in them. I also once heard a rumor that the bones of a smelt are so brittle that you can eat them.

I'm pretty sure that Ariel would be up in arms if she knew about my family's Christmas tradition. I am also fairly certain that I've had a nightmare about smelts and their backbones; maybe one day my Christmas Eve dinner won't scare me. Needless to say Christmas is a huge deal in my family; from baccalà to calamari, my Christmas Eve is unforgettable and quite the production.