Fish has been rooted in history, and become part of traditions that are popularly celebrated in America. One of the most renowned and revered is the Feast of Seven Fishes. It’s an Italian-American tradition, also known as The Vigil, in which families celebrate by eating a grand meal of multiple fish and seafood dishes. Many families celebrate with the Feast of Seven Fishes on holidays in place of their main meal.

The tradition of eating the different styles of seafood stems from the Roman Catholics who would abstain from eating meat at certain times of the year. It originated, however, in southern Italy. The actual number of seven fishes is not fixed upon the meal. There may be 10, or 15 seafood dishes at the table. The number seven has just been coined with the name and has traveled with the tradition through history.

Important Fish Dishes to look for at The Feast of Seven Fishes

  • Clams (vongole) or Mussels in Spaghetti
  • Baccala (salted cod fish)
  • Fried Smelts or Calamari
  • Clams Casino
  • Octopus salad
  • Oysters on the Half Shell
  • Scallops
  • Shrimp 
  • Cod
  • Scungilli Salad (sea snails)
  • Lobster
  • Quahog
  • Linguine with Anchovies
  • Tuna
  • Marinated or Fried Eel


6 Oysters on half shell with lemon

Creative Dishes through Tradition

Most of the dishes are seafood either deep fried, pan seared, or broiled. Some of them are tossed or laid over a bed of pasta, usually in a white wine or red sauce. Others are stuffed with seafood stuffing and baked in the oven. The recipes and fishes are subjective when it comes to the feast.

The tradition doesn’t specify the type of fish or the number of dishes, so you can be creative and really enjoy the feast if you wanted to try it for your family next Christmas Eve. The Feast of Seven Fishes is just one way fish has been enjoyed and appreciated through tradition.

The graphic novel Feast of Seven Fishes, written by Robert Tinnell, is being made into a feature film. The book was written in 2005, and the movie will be released November 1, 2018. The film will feature Madison Iseman and Skyler Gisondo. If you’re interested in the tradition, keep an eye out for the movie to be released.

Channel Fish Processing offers a wide variety of fresh and frozen seafood products. A family owned and operated business of over 65 years of experience ensures superior service and products of the highest quality. Today Channel sources from all over the world and has plants in Boston and Gloucester, Massachusetts. Visit the Channel Fish Processing website at to get some inspiration for your own Feast of the Seven Fishes traditions.