Every culture has unique holiday traditions; the old time Italian traditional recipes for Christmas Eve are seafood dishes. Spend Christmas with an Italian family and you will enjoy a feast of seven fishes, and sweet desserts with a cup of hot espresso at the end of the meal.
Traditional Italian Christmas Recipes
The night before Christmas Italians celebrate the birth of Jesus with a custom called La Vigilia, they prepare and eat a seven fish feast. The feast of seven fishes is a custom of Italy, at least seven seafood recipes are served on the eve of Christmas. Meats are not eaten on Christmas Eve. Here is an example of what an Italian spread (dinner table) might include on Christmas Eve:
Mussels and Red Gravy (spaghetti sauce) – A large pot of home-made gravy is made without any sausage, meatballs or neck bones, fresh mussels are cleaned and added to the gravy and boiled, when the mussels open they are done, any closed mussels are removed and tossed out. A pot of spaghetti is cooked and drained; the red gravy and mussels is served over the pasta.
Deep Fried Calamari – Fresh squid (octopus) is cut into strips. The squid is dipped in a beer batter and deep-fried until cooked and golden.
Baccala Salad – For this salad a dried codfish is used, which is very salty and takes hours to prepare.
Boiled Shrimp – Medium to large fresh shrimp is peeled and divined then boiled until pink and cooked. This is served cold and dipped in a hot sauce and ketchup mixture, red gravy or other sauce.
Shrimp Scampi – Fresh shrimp is peeled and divined then sautéed in a seasoned butter and olive oil mixture. When the shrimp is cooked, the mixture is served over spaghetti.
Sautéed Shrimp – This is made with shrimp that is divined but not peeled. Olive oil is simmered with fresh thinly sliced garlic and fresh black ground pepper.
Cold Clams – This shellfish is steamed until cooked, clams open when cooked and any unopened clams should be tossed out; never eat unopened clams. This is served cold, sometimes over a bed of ice.
La Vigilia, the Italian seven fish feast may include any combination of fish and seafood dishes.
On Christmas day, Italians do serve and eat meat. Spaghetti and meatballs, sausage and green peppers, lasagna and baked ziti are enjoyed among many other Italian dishes. Antipasto and other salads, such as eel salad and garden salad are served as appetizers. Bread is a part of almost all Italian meals. After dinner, the sweet desserts are spread out and enjoyed with espresso and other drinks.
Experiencing the Italian Christmas holiday tradition is a wonderful experience, which is very educational too.