Day 17: La Vigilia

La Vigilia di Natale, also known as the Feast of Seven Fishes, is the Italian tradition of eating an extensive, seafoody dinner before Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Ok, not necessary the Italian tradition. It’s actually more common in the southern and Adriatic parts of Italy, celebrated in the regions between the island of Sicily and Rome. Once you get past Rome you’re likely to run into Italians who have never even heard of the seven fishes.

It looks like there's gefilte fish in there.

The feast goes by several different names. There’s La Vagilia di Natale (Vigil of the Nativity), Cenone (great supper), Cena della Vigilia di Natale (the supper of the Vigil of the Nativity), and Festa dei Sette Pesci (the Festival of Seven Fish). It includes all types of fish, including shellfish.

Old guy serving delicious frickin pasta. I'm so hungry.

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Why? Why Do You Make Me Eat Gefilte Fish?

I’m not fully Jewish. My dad is the Jew. My mom was raised Catholic. We celebrate both major holidays of each tradition. Our gatherings are always small.

My family has a lax way of celebrating the holidays. Mommy’s side of the family all lives in England (she’s British) and Daddy’s side of the family all lives in Boca Raton (he’s a New York Jew), so most holidays it’s only my parents, my brother, my sister, and me. Now, holidays will often include my boyfriend (party time!). Before that it was just the 5 of us eating alone during Christmas dinner, Yom Kippur, Thanksgiving, Passover, Easter brunch, even July 4th. That’s not to say it didn’t have it’s moments. We didn’t have to dress up. I wore pajamas and often by the end of the dinner we were all making inappropriate jokes about…well…you don’t want to know.

Since we had such small family gatherings, we altered the meals to fit our desires. We had the basics, but we got to mix it up a bit. If there was a traditional item that we didn’t like, we scrapped it. Yet, there was one thing my mom always kept on the Seder menu that I didn’t understand.

Gefilte fish.

DUN DUN DUUUUUUN!

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Gefilte Fish

Wanna know what gefilte fish is? Wanna know why it’s eaten?

So do I, considering it’s been pushed on me for years.

I mean, have you ever seen it?

Now you have.

I’ll let you know.

Keep eating and asking, my friends.

Esther