Question #8701. Asked by Marie.
Last updated Oct 06 2021.
La vigilia is as far as I know a uniquely Southern Italian affair, a feast involving seven fish dishes. There's no specific menu to follow; each family has its own traditional dishes it brings to the table. In my family, there was always baccalà, sometimes two different preparations, a big bowl of shrimp and heaping portions of spaghetti all'aglio e olio, a small portion of which was made with alici, or anchovies.
The Feast of the Seven Fishes is a traditional Southern Italian and Sicilian event. Christmas Eve, known as vigilia di magro, is a Catholic day of fasting; no meat is eaten. Toward evening a family will traditionally break the fast with a feast of seven fishes prior to midnight mass. In America today, Italian-American families continue to follow the tradition of the feast, with some families adding nine, eleven or even thirteen fishes. The seven is believed to represent the seven sacraments.