Bring everyone together on Christmas Eve in the traditional Southern Italian style — with a feast of seafood done seven different ways. Buon Natale!

garlic shrimp with parsley
| Credit: catherine.drew

La Viglia di Natale

On December 24, Italian families all over the world gather together for La Viglia di Natale—the Christmas vigil — where fish is on the menu instead of meat. Also called The Feast of the Seven Fishes, the ritual of La Viglia has been handed down from generation to generation over the centuries.

Why seven fishes? The number seven is thought to stand for the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. With its roots in religious observance, La Viglia customarily ends by attending midnight mass.

Seven Fishes, Seven Dishes

La Viglia's favored dishes may vary from family to family, but you will likely find an array of seafood that includes the freshest catch of the day as well as clams, oysters, mussels, squid, shrimp, and lobster.

Swordfish dinner
Credit: Allrecipes Magazine

Meaty swordfish steaks are baked with a piquant sauce of olives, raisins, pine nuts, capers, garlic, onions, and tomatoes. "This was with out a doubt the most fantastic swordfish I've ever had," says reviewer Aja. "No restaurant experience could top this."

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Clams, Oysters, and Mussels

Be sure to have plenty of crusty bread on hand to sop up the flavorful clam broth.

This easy recipe takes only 30 minutes from start to finish.

clams in broth
Credit: lynninhk

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Shrimp, Calamari, and Lobster

You can control the heat on this super-easy shrimp dish by dialing back the red pepper flakes, if you wish.

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Vegetables such as broccoli rabe and kale often round out the meal.

Broccoli Rabe with Roasted Peppers
Broccoli Rabe with Roasted Peppers | Photo by Allrecipes Magazine
| Credit: allrecipes magazine

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Dessert can be anything from a simple cake to a staggering display of sweets. To get guaranteed oohs and aahs, bring a traditional tiramisu to the table.

slice of tiramisu on a plate
Credit: vale

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