Uniquely New Jersey: Does Your Family Celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes?
Other states: I can't wait until Christmas! New Jersey: I can't wait until Christmas Eve!
I'll never forget the day I was talking to my friend who lived in Pennsylvania on the phone, and I asked her what her plans for Christmas Eve were. Her response was that she and her family were just going to stay home and order Chinese Food, and it was just a normal day for her.
Cue the shock and confusion from my end. I had to be 16 years old at that point, and it never occurred that Christmas Eve, or the Feast of the Seven Fishes, wasn't something everyone partook in.
Let's start by defining what The Feast of the Seven Fishes is (because to be fair, I don't exactly know, I just celebrate).
Eataly's website explains it as an Italian-American Tradition that came from the practice of not eating meat on certain holidays (Christmas Eve is one of those). It makes sense that the holiday is so popular in New Jersey (and parts of New York too) since there's a heavy population of Italian-Americans.
I do know every family cooks different dishes to celebrate, and I'm not even sure if my family cooks all 7 (by the way, Eataly credited the 7 fishes with there being 7 sacraments). My family heads to my Cousins' on Staten Island, where she prepares crab legs, lobster tails, stuffed calamari, shrimp cocktail, seafood pasta, and I know my Mom will bring frutta da mare (seafood salad). My mom has also made a salmon spread in the past.
The funny part is, I don't eat fish since I'm a vegetarian (more fried ravioli and rice balls for me), but I appreciate this tradition that brings together family and is unique to this part of the country.