Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Traditions, Friends & The Feast of the Seven Fishes

What's the busiest day for Chinese restaurants?

Christmas Day.

Where I grew up in New Jersey, most of the kids were either Italian (Catholic), or Jewish.
We were all friends, and Sundays were either spent at Italian friends' Sunday dinners, or brisket and deli sandwiches at the Jewish kids' homes.

But Christmas was different for the Jewish kids.
We always went for Chinese food and to the movies on Christmas. That's just how it was. Everything else was closed that day, and that was tradition.

However, when I was a teenager, I started getting invitations to my friend's homes for the Christmas holidays.
I was so happy to not have to go to the movies with my parents anymore!


Julie's mother made a gorgeous Christmas Eve dinner with a roaring fire, a turkey with all the trimmings, and lobster and shrimp in silver chafing dishes. She even wore a hostess gown and played beautiful Christmas music while she cooked and served. I was in awe. Why couldn't WE have Christmas dinner like that at MY house?

My friend Natalie's mother was Polish and made delicious perogies and kielbasa simmered in onions for Christmas Day along with the best potato salad in the world.

Missi's mother made a delicious braciole (stuffed rolled flank steak in tomato sauce), a lasagne and other delicious Italian foods on Christmas Day.

Debbie's family made the Feast of the Seven Fishes, an Italian American feast consisting of 7 different fish dishes to commemorate the wait, the Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus. It is unclear when the term "Feast of the Seven Fishes" was popularized, there are many different theories.


Most of my Southern Italian friends served this feast on Christmas Eve. See Ciao Chow Linda's festa for what she serves.

Well, nothing has changed. I still have the same group of girlfriends since I am 11, and I still get that holiday invitation.


This year we went to my friend Debbie and her sister Patti's home for the Feast on Christmas Eve.

The sisters slave all day in the kitchen and make everything from scratch.


Bacala salad (salt cod)
Shrimp cocktail
Crab cakes
Fried flounder
Stuffed Calamari ("galamad"!!)
Fried Scallops
Smelts (traditional)


A side of broccoli rabe and aglio olio (pasta w/ garlic and oil) on the table to be passed.

Tiramisu and delicious homemade Christmas cookies for dessert and some alka seltzer for me.


It's a wonderful tradition and we are so happy to always be included.

Hope you all had a great holiday.

What are your family holiday traditions?

11 comments:

Jackie said...

OMG, I loved seeing this post.

My grandmother used to slave all day to make this feast. We had smelts, sardines, clams, bacala, scallops and shrimp scampi. Such a nice memory.
I married an Irishman, and no one makes this tradition anymore.

I should start it again.
Thanks for your blog everyday, you inspire me to be a better cook!

Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

We make a Christmas turkey with all the trimmings.
I plan on making your turkey pie with curry today with the leftovers!
So that will be our new tradition!

Happy Christmas!

Tracy S said...

this is almost identical to my family's dinner- the flounder, smelts, shrimp cocktail...I even have that same china. My mom also makes gigantic lobster in linguini, and I did a calamari salad this year. Delicious! Happy Holidays!

AdriBarr said...

Well it looks like you had a wonderful celebration! I hope your Christmas Day was equally grand. Buon anno!

Natalia B said...

It's wonderful that you're able to see other traditions for Christmas Eve and Christmas with your friends.

In our house, Christmas Eve has 12 dairy-free and meat-free traditional dishes, which takes us several days to prepare. We love taking part in the various preparations and continue the traditions with our children.

Christmas Day in our house is more laid-back - with a party at my aunt's house - turkey will all the trimmings. We barely rolled home yesterday after all the food and drink & fun camaraderie. Merry Christmas to you Stacey!

Toni said...

We make a huge pasta feast on Christmas Day.
Lasagne, Manicotti, Linguini with clam sauce, meatballs and you name it!
My mom and aunts cook for 2 days straight, we all fall asleep on the couch after dinner. It is such a feast, I love it and look forward to it all year.
I'll diet next week!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Thanks for the shout-out Stacey. How wonderful that you have childhood friends who invite you to Christmas feasts. This year, my son brought home a nice Jewish girl who had never had a feast of the seven fishes - until now. Every year, it's hours and hours of prep and I always say no more, but then I get persuaded by the kids' pleas for the old traditions. I need one of them to take it over !

The Mrs. said...

You are lucky to get all these invites! What a meal!

Lisa in Indy said...

Thank you for the walk down memory lane, Stacey. Wonderful! Do you think your friend, Natalie's mother would share her recipe for "the best potato salad in the world"? After moved away from home I did the movie and Chinese dinner the afternoon of Dec. 25. Happy New Year, Stacey ~ to you and Henry. Lisa in Indianapolis

Lisa in Indy said...

Thank you for the walk down memory lane, Stacey. Wonderful! Do you think your friend, Natalie's mother would share her recipe for "the best potato salad in the world"? After moved away from home I did the movie and Chinese dinner the afternoon of Dec. 25. Happy New Year, Stacey ~ to you and Henry. Lisa in Indianapolis

Bites from life with the barking lot said...

Stacey, you are very special in so many ways. Having the same group of girlfriends since you were eleven really says it all.