The holidays are a time for celebrating old traditions and creating new ones. While most holiday feasts are centered around a roast or a turkery, seafood also plays an important role in many holiday traditions. As a country of immigrants, America has had the fortune of inheriting and carrying on many diverse holiday feasting traditions.
Catholics from Southern Italy and Sicily traditionally abstained from eating meat on Christmas Eve celebrating with the Feast of Seven Fishes. The origins of this tradition are unknown, but there’s no question that the focus revolves around enjoying good food while surrounded by family. The relevance of the number seven is thought to have a biblical significance, perhaps referring to the creation story, the sacraments, or perhaps even as a reminder of the seven deadly sins. Popular seafood options for this feast include cod (baccala), octopus, squid, scallops, eel, crab, conch shrimp and smelt. In the name of celebrating all that the sea has to offer, many have ditched the number seven and eat as many as thirteen or fourteen different kinds of seafood on Christmas Eve.
The French also celebrate with seafood around the holidays, hosting long seafood feasts on both Christmas Eve and New Years Eve that last well into the early morning hours. Called revellion, meaning “wakening” these feasts offer high-end seafood including lobster, oysters and escargot often paired with celebratory drinks like champagne. The city of New Orleans plays homage to this tradition each year with many restaurants offering traditional revellion menus. The finishing touch for most of these meals is the famed bouche noel, or Yule log dessert.
The Swedish celebrate Christmas Day with a feast called Julbord, where herring, ham, meatballs and sausage are the menu staples. These dishes are often enjoyed with traditional spiced wine called Glogg. The Basques in Spain also celebrate with seafood-based dishes on Christmas and many in Great Britain chow down on fish and chips to celebrate the holiday.
So no matter what your heritage or traditions, we suggest you mix up your roasts and turkeys with a bit of seafood this year, just like these cultures have been enjoying for many generations. And remember, Turner’s market offers a wide variety of seafood selections that can even be delivered to your door in time for an admirable holiday feast.